ZEC shouldn’t allow MDC-T double standards in filling vacancies


This article observes that it would be improper and unlawful for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to permit the MDC-T led by Dr Thokozani Khupe to use the name MDC Alliance in the by-elections scheduled for 5 December because the party has already asserted its right to participate electorally as the MDC-T.

Morgan Komichi of the judicially reconstructed MDC-T has declared that their party will be using the name MDC Alliance in the by-elections set for 5 December 2020. This cannot be permitted considering how the judicially reconstructed MDC-T has already presented itself before ZEC.

General Notice 2266 of 2020

To understand the argument against the judicially constructed MDC-T using the name MDC Alliance in the by-elections, one only must look at General Notice 2266 of 2020, which was published by the Chairperson of ZEC on 21 August 2020.

General Notice 2266 was a notification of candidates that had been nominated to fill party-list vacancies in Parliament. These vacancies had arisen following the recall of MDC Alliance MPs controversially triggered by the MDC-T. The key point is that the General Notice makes it clear that the party which was nominating the replacement candidates was the MDC-T. This is the relevant part of the General Notice 2266:

“The public is hereby notified, in terms of section 39(6) of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13], that the MDC-T party has nominated party-list members of the National Assembly and the Senate listed in the schedules below to fill vacancies in the National Assembly and the Senate that occurred following the recall by the MDC-T of the incumbent members on the grounds that they had ceased to be members of that party” (my emphasis)

The General Notice goes on to invite objections to the nominated candidates. There are two relevant points in this paragraph: the first is that the MDC-T is the party that recalled the MPs. The second is that the party which nominated candidates to fill the party-list seats is also the MDC-T. The identification of the party as the MDC-T is highly pertinent, as shall become evident. Indeed, ZEC dealt with the party as the MDC-T, distinct from the MDC Alliance under who name those MPs were elected in 2018.

You can’t be both in the same elections

Having accepted that it is dealing with a party called the MDC-T to fill party-list seats, how then could ZEC turn around and accept the same party as the MDC Alliance to contest the constituency-based by-elections? This is the conundrum for ZEC, considering claims by Morgan Komichi that the judicially reconstructed MDC-T will be using the MDC Alliance for the by-elections. ZEC has already dealt with this party as the MDC-T, pretending that the MDC Alliance has no claim, right, or interest in those MPs, even though they were elected under its ticket.

A party’s identity cannot be allowed to change depending on the prevailing wind. It chose to divorce itself from the MDC Alliance regarding the party-list proportional representation seats because it was more convenient to be identified as the MDC-T. Now, however, because it is politically convenient to be identified as the MDC Alliance, the same party wants to contest constituency-based by-elections not as the MDC-T but as the MDC Alliance.

But a party cannot assume one name to fill party-list seats and choose another for contested by-elections. It reeks of double-standards and dishonesty on the part of the MDC-T politicians which cannot be condoned by the election management body. The party either claims and contests those seats as the MDC-T or the MDC Alliance, but certainly not as both. The MDC-T politicians want to have their cake and eat it at the same time, which is an impossibility.

An after-thought

The latest episode is a reminder that the so-called strategic prowess of the MDC-T politicians is overrated. The idea of contesting the by-elections as the MDC Alliance has come as an after-thought to the MDC-T strategists. When they sat down to recall MPs, they did so arguing that they were the MDC-T. This is why ZEC says in General Notice 2266 that they were recalled by the MDC-T. When they sat down to submit names of replacement MPs for party-list seats, they also did so as the MDC-T. This is why ZEC states that the nominations were submitted by the MDC-T.

It seems the focus of the MDC-T politicians was dimmed by short-termism. They looked only at the easier to fill party-list seats but did not fully apply their minds to the by-elections. The announcement of the by-election dates was a rude awakening, which has left them hallucinating about their identity. If they had paid attention they would have avoided the embarrassment of chameleonic changes to their party’s identity in the same set of elections. How does one party fill party-list vacancies under one name and then seek to contest by-elections under another name, let alone the one that you have opposed all along?

The fact of the matter is that they made their bed back in August when they chose to fill party-list seats as the MDC-T, and now they must lie in it. If ZEC were to permit the party to shift identity to fill the vacancies it triggered, the elections management body would be presiding over a sham.

Playing the spoiler

There is, of course, bigger political and moral arguments against this type of political gamesmanship. The judicially constructed MDC-T is fully aware of the very limited tenure of its political fortunes. It has shown itself to be no more than a puppet of the ruling party, more willing to be co-opted than to resist authoritarian rule. The party is more interested in fighting erstwhile comrades than to challenge ZANU PF’s misrule. Hence the lack of embarrassment in the flip-flopping over the name. Usurping a party name that they have been distancing themselves from and using as justification for expelling MPs and councillors is an act of political hypocrisy.

But this time they did not think through the issues with care and they have found themselves in a legal and political maze. They have already approached ZEC as the MDC-T, to fill party-list seats in Parliament and ZEC has engaged them as such hence General Notice 2266 of 2020. The same party cannot now approach ZEC at the Nomination Court claiming to be the MDC Alliance. If ZEC were to permit this, it would complete one of the biggest electoral shams in the history of our elections. It is fair to observe that ZEC does not inspire confidence, but even they must get to a point where they must draw a line and put a halt to the circus.