Zvamaida Murwira, Harare Bureau
THE ongoing provincial congress in the MDC Alliance led by Mr Nelson Chamisa has torched another storm after former legislator, Mr Tongai Matutu, was disqualified ostensibly because he had not yet reached the five-year threshold before he rejoined the opposition party.
There were chaotic scenes yesterday in Masvingo as party supporters protested over the disqualification of Mr Matutu who was the front runner for the provincial chairperson post after the organising department led by Mr Amos Chibaya barred him on the pretext that he was still to reach five years since he returned to the party.
Mr Matutu is perceived to be a loyalist of the party secretary general, Mr Douglas Mwonzora, and there were fears that he would not nominate Mr Chamisa should he land the post to head the province.
Party supporters alleged an uneven playing field, arguing that the same template had not been applied on people like Mr Tendai Biti, Professor Welshman Ncube and a host of others who barely had one year since they rejoined the party. Mr Matutu was set to contest against Mr James Gumbi for the post of provincial chairperson.
The decision by the organising department to disqualify Mr Matutu gave credence to complaints raised by Mr Mwonzora that the Independent Electoral Commission, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union, was not in charge of the congress.
“Mr Matutu clearly had the upper hand over his rival Mr Gumbi,” said a source who attended the meeting.
“Several districts had nominated him and everything was going on well until the eleventh hour when the organising department intervened to disqualify him. We suspect that they had realised that he was headed for a victory.”
Others questioned why the organising department intervened ahead of the ZCTU which was charged with running the congress.
“That is our worry,” said another source. “Who is really in charge? Is it the ZCTU or the organising department led by Mr Chibaya who happens to be equally in the race for election into the national standing committee.”
When contacted, party spokesperson, Mr Jacob Mafume said Mr Matutu did not meet the template set out by the party. “He should have applied for a waiver, but unfortunately he did not exercise that right for one reason or the other,” he said. “Those who applied for a waiver were granted, but he failed to do so.”
On Monday, Mr Mwonzora said he withdrew from the ongoing congress because he had raised a lot of irregularities with the ZCTU and the party, but they were not addressed.
Mr Mwonzora said he could not continue participating in the race if the concerns were not resolved, some of which related to violence against his supporters, arbitrary disqualification of candidates and that the party’s organising department had usurped the powers and functions of ZCTU which was charged with running the elections.