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MDC members challenge ‘voter stuffed and rigged’ Bulawayo provincial congress results

By Silas Nkala | NewsDay |

Some members of the MDC’s Bulawayo province have filed an appeal to the party’s national executive committee (NEC) challenging the process and outcome of the provincial congress held nearly two weeks ago.

MDC supporters at a rally
MDC supporters at a rally

This comes after party leader Nelson Chamisa has been confirmed as the party’s president after he was nominated uncontested and now waits to be confirmed by the national congress to be held in Gweru from May 24 to 26.

In a notice of appeal directed to the NEC, Nketa legislator Phelela Masuku and 11 others submitted that they were appealing against the process and procedures employed at the Bulawayo provincial congress held at Stanley’s Square in Makokoba Bulawayo on April 17 and 18, 2019, which they say violated several sections of the party’s constitution.

“… the appellants’ grounds of appeal are that the congress was not legally constituted for failure of a quorum notwithstanding the districts that were disenfranchised and refused to participate,” the appellants submitted.

“The process was characterised by voter stuffing and rigging with both security teams, and presiding officers playing part thereof. The whole voting process, from ballot allocation, voting, ballot casting, counting and computation of votes cast lacked transparency and failed to meet a single thread of secrecy as dictated by our constitution.

“The withholding of information and late notification of the congress date, venue and time by provincial organiser and team, while being interested parties in the process, was manipulative and lacked credence.”

The officials said the destruction of data forms as well as refusal of wards and district to participate was not only unlawful, but criminal.

“The lack of impartiality in the security personnel and involvement of both the provincial organiser and his deputy as resource people in the accreditation and determination of delegates’ eligibility in the congress process, resulted in manipulative discrimination against those areas perceived not supportive of their lot,” the officials submitted.

“The directive given by the president Chamisa to national organiser Amos Chibaya, on being petitioned at the congress venue by disenfranchised delegates who were refused to participate, was only acceded to after the conclusion of both the youth and women processes, effectively denying them the vote and creating complexities for main wing processes by (the) introduction of non-eligible delegates.

“Mpopoma was effectively locked out of participation, and the caucus constituted by Chibaya to address the anomaly calculatedly and mischievously took forever resultant acceding at the close of the voting process. The cabal of James Sithole and Helen Zviviri (Tsepiso Mpofu) formed the think-tank of the caucus.”

In their detailed outline, the appellants said the presiding officers, jointly with the national organiser, failed and/or disregarded the establishment of the existence of a quorum prior to the commencement of the process as stipulated in the congress template.

“Section 9(a) of the MDC 2019 congress template stipulates a 2/3 of all eligible delegates as a quorum to constitute the holding of a congress,” the officials said.

The appellants said eligible delegates to the provincial congress, as contained in the party’s constitution, were supposed to be 2 577, but the delegates who participated in the congress were 1989, a figure below the expected number by 588.

“Notice giving effect of the congress on April 17 at 10am as posted on April 16 at 6:14pm by the provincial organiser, effectively giving 16 hours notice, thus disenfranchising working delegates as there was no opportunity to seek leave of absence from work to attend congress,” the petition reads.

They also said the election of the Mpopoma women structures was not procedural in that in each portfolio, the losing candidate was unilaterally installed as automatic deputies by the presiding officer, one Tendai Gwaradzimba, denying prospective candidates to be nominated and voted for.

The appellants said such was a clear violation of the party’s electoral rules.

Results for the main wing saw Phelela Masuku getting 307 votes for the chairmanship after being defeated by James Sithole, who got 509 votes, among other provincial executive positions, which the appellants claim were taken by those belonging to the Sithole faction.

They prayed that the whole process and the outcome of the Bulawayo provincial congress be nullified and that a fresh process of holding a provincial congress be instituted.

Contacted for comment yesterday, MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume could neither confirm nor deny that an appeal had been filed.

“The constitution provides for an appeal process, which goes to the national executive. If it has been filed, then the special committee will handle that appeal. Once it concludes, we can then comment. Now it’s a sub judice. As a democratic party we allow appeals and the right to be heard,” Mafume said.

Former Bulilima East legislator Norman Mpofu yesterday likened the MDC congress to the Zanu PF style of endorsement of leaders without elections.

“MDC Chamisa provincial congresses are over and only Chamisa romped to victory unopposed. What a circus? The faction in charge of the party closely monitored the nominations and Chamisa personally presided over the congresses the Zanu way. We saw other contestants disadvantaged in the same manner,” Mpofu said.

“This is a far cry from what the nation expects from a party fighting for democracy. Structures were manipulated. Chamisa wielded so much influence over the elections compared to his competitors. This is a Zanu PF way of running elections.”