WHEN Zanu-PF held primary elections a couple of weeks ago, there was a palpable buzz.
The calibre of candidates was eye-catching, with over 8 000 contestants — many of them first-time seekers of public office from every social and economic sector conceivable — throwing their hats in the ring.
The main opposition MDC Alliance is holding its primaries soon and analysts have noted the lack of excitement around them — and the significantly lower number of experts and technocrats expressing faith in the party by seeking to represent it.
Political analysts say President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s focus on the economy has generated interest from technocrats, business and the humanities, hence the huge demand to represent Zanu-PF.
Among notables in the Zanu-PF primaries were former Mimosa executive chair Mr Winston Chitando, Postal and Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe chair and banker Mr Ozias Bvute, Zimbabwe Cricket chair Mr Tawengwa Mukhuhlani, Chitungwiza Central hospital chief executive Dr Obadiah Moyo, business tycoon Cde Crispen Thomu, writer and academic Dr Sekai Nzenza, and Zimbabwe Football Authority vice-chair Cde Omega Sibanda, among others.
Asked to point out prominent names in the opposition line-up yesterday, MDC-T chair Mr Morgan Komichi did not provide a ready response.
Further, the MDC Alliance primaries have attracted 3 000 hopefuls — more than 5 000 less than Zanu-PF.
University of Pretoria PhD scholar and political analyst Mr Alban Gambe said the calibre of Zanu-PF candidates indicated the attraction of a lucid agenda.
“I think when President Mnangagwa appointed technocrats such as Winston Chitando and Professor Amon Murwirwa, the move had a snowball impact on technocrats who otherwise may not have had ambition to be in public office.
“They realised that the game was no longer about politics but about building a country. Their expertise can be utilised in Government. I believe this is the reason why prominent names as such Dr Obadia Sibanda and Ozias Bvute joined the political fray.”
Yesterday, Mr Komichi said: “We started the process of selecting our candidates on Thursday and the process is still ongoing. We have only completed the selection of candidates in four provinces which are Bulawayo, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Midlands. We are expecting to finish the process (this week) and we will then release all the names.”
He said MDC Alliance candidate selection was being done through consensus, with negotiations determining who would represent the opposition.
“We have said that we will only have primary elections as a last resort because candidates are negotiating,” he said.
“The party wants to centre its candidate selection process around the people through a procedure that begins with a process of consensus between and among the candidates themselves, with a primary elections being the last resort…
“Over 3 000 people have submitted their CVs … Of the candidates who have submitted their CVs, 512 want to represent the party as parliamentary candidates while the rest wish to represent the 1 958 local government wards.”
Commentators said the candidate selection process and an unclear campaign message were driving away potential representatives.
These include sitting Harare West National Assembly MP Ms Jessie Majome, who withdrew her candidature amid indications that MDC Alliance leader Mr Nelson Chamisa is imposing Ms Joana Mamombe.
Senior opposition official Mr David Coltart is clearly dismayed by unfolding events. In a tweet last week, Mr Coltart said, “I have known Jessie Majome since she worked for me at the BLPC in the 1990s. I know her as a tireless campaigner for human rights and democracy. She is a critical member of the MDC Alliance and we need her to be a key member of our team.”
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