Of imposition of candidates, internal party democracy
President Mnangagwa made it crystal clear that imposition of candidates by some party godfathers would not be tolerated under the re-branded Zanu-PF, emphasising the point that candidates should come from the people.
ZIMBABWE has had a very long period — 37 years of rule described in many quarters as authoritarian—which ended in November, 2017. And it remains a fact that the legacy of that period is still with us as can be witnessed in our various governance institutions, where tolerance and multiple voices are not entertained.
Undeniably, some remnants of that authoritarian past still exist, and wield power and influence in the ruling party Zanu-PF as we try to transition from that legacy.
It is therefore a mammoth challenge for the new leadership to instil democratic tenets in the party. The new leadership of Zanu PF has made it clear that internal democracy is critical for the party itself, its members and for the country at large.
It remains a fact that the absence of internal democracy in political parties is a major reason why the quality of leaders that we at times produce has not matched our expectations, especially in Parliament and local authorities.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been trying extremely hard to eschew evil and unorthodox practices in both Government and the ruling party Zanu-PF.
But shaking off the vices of the past will not be an easy job and cannot happen overnight.
The President, who is also Zanu-PF’s First Secretary, last week in Chipinge at a field day at a farm owned by Mr Irvene Taguta, took time to speak on imposition of candidates and the need to allow internal party democracy to flourish in Zanu -PF as the country edges closer to harmonised elections scheduled for July this year.
“No imposition of candidates, no imposition of candidates. Macandidates anomirira kuenda ku Parliament ngaabve kuvanhu, ngaabve kuvanhu. Hapana kuti uyu ndishefu; uyu ndiyani. Umwe neumwe ngaaende kuvanhu, abve kuvanhu, vanhu vasimudze kuti ndiye watinoda uyu.
“Sisi ava kana mukoma ava ndivo vatinoda, zvichibva kuvanhu. Ndozvatoda izvozvo. No imposition at all. Ndozvinozoti tozouya kwamuri tichiti ko munhu azotadza kuhwina sei murimi makatipa, kwete kuti moti imi vakuru ndimi makatipa, isu tanga tine wedu, ayehwa. Isu toda munhu wamunotipa imi; ndomurairo wavapo.
“We want people to elect their representatives themselves. We don’t want impositions; kuti uyu ndiye anodiwa na President, uyu ndiye anodiwa na chairman wemusangano vaMadiro. Hapana inhema, inhema! Ini ndinoda anenge adiwa nevanhu kwete kuti adiwa na shefu. Anodiwa nevanhu ndiye wandinodawo” said President Mnangagwa to wild applause from the crowd.
It is important to note that the President was emphasising and re-emphasising that Parliamentary candidates for the forthcoming hamornised elections must come from people and not be imposed by the President or the Zanu-PF Chairman for Manicaland Province Cde Mike Madiro, who are servants of the people. It is not a secret that imposition of candidates has in the past been Zanu-PF’s Achilles heel during election time.
Imposition of candidates on the party by some influential leaders had become the rule, which President Mnangagwa is doing everything is his power to eliminate.
Some party godfathers brazenly picked and chose favoured candidates at will without any concern for the good and progress of the party.
Such godfathers preferred their loyalists to popular candidates.
This spate of imposition of candidates assumed disturbing dimensions over the past few harmonised elections as the former President and party leader, Mr Robert Mugabe was slowly losing control of the levers of power to criminal elements around him. The practice has spelt doom for many Zanu-PF candidates whose political ambitions had been curtailed undemocratically in preference for some sacred cows.
Consequently, Zanu-PF members, who felt short-changed during party primaries left to either stand as independents or join other parties.
Mudzi South Member of the House of Assembly Jonathan Samukange is one name that quickly comes to mind.
The truth is, this evil practice causes the disintegration of a political party and breeds bad blood and discontentment in the rank and file of a party.
It is a threat to democracy as it does not give room for party members to have a say in the choice of candidates to stand for the main election.
Every candidate interested in an elective office should be given the opportunity to test his or her popularity within the party by democratically conducted primaries which will produce the most popular candidate for the main election.
Anything short of that is a total diversion from democratic norms and principles.
This is precisely what the President was saying in Chipinge last week.
Imposition of candidates dampen the morale of members. It is a practice that is capable of shaking the belief of members in their party and in its internal mechanisms. It is a direct affront to democracy which reduces elections to a process of sheer favouritism. No doubt, this becomes party bullying, not party building. Any democratic system for a nation ought to begin from the parties and how they choose their candidates for the main election.
Therefore, there should be a close relationship between democracy within a political party and democracy within the country.
Put simply, Zanu-PF cannot build democracy on a substructure of intolerance within the party, constricting the freedom of its members to choose candidates of their choice, and then want to practice democracy at national level.
It is very clear that the President wants his party to realise that democracy should not just be an idea, but a cultural practice that should pervade the whole party.
THE ruling revolutionary party Zanu-PF is scheduled to hold its primary polls this Sunday, April 29. In a first of its kind in the party, most of the constituencies are being heavily contested, a development attesting commitment to promotion of internal party democracy under the new leadership of President and First Secretary, Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa.
it is a reality that in the past, selection of some candidates in Zanu-PF was not done through outcomes from proper party primaries, but through hook and crook - the principle of nepotism and master-servant relationship, among other factors.
Candidates vying for a political position found it easier when they were the ‘sons or daughters’ of a party godfather. Credibility and popularity were secondary considerations to the favouritism prioritised and championed by some unprincipled leaders.
Continued tussling for political positions exposed the diminishing internal democracy within the party and consequently, the chances of the electorate getting the best man or woman for the job were shattered.
Thus, the party was weakened by various degrees of internal conflicts and squabbles with the implication that the internal structure was often mired in endless fights. This translates to the fact that Zanu-PF, which was expected to promote the tenets of democracy, had fallen short of ensuring that such a goal is achieved.
Bickering within the party produced two end results: Proper co-ordination of the party in relation to campaigning and other factors could not be achieved; also some members of the party became disillusioned and expressed their discontent through defecting to opposition parties.
Cumulatively, these resulted in factionalisation within the party, distrust among party members, candidates standing as independents and proliferation of political parties in the country. But the new rules of the rebranded Zanu-PF and wishes of its leader, President Mnangagwa, desire to ensure that selection of the right candidates for the 2018 harmonised elections is not subjected to the whims and caprices of few ambitious leaders within the party.
Party Primaries have been succinctly defined by Nigerian scholar, Aluoma as “the initial electoral contest amongst candidates for the purpose of winning the nominations of their parties for the general contest”.
The importance of party primaries is that they serve as a litmus test for political parties and are also expected to ensure that the elements of democracy are observed. Therefore, the selection of competent candidates is most importantly and firstly done through the organisation of primary elections before the general elections.
This is vital as it serves the purpose of nominating the right candidates for political office, thus making it relevant in ensuring that internal democracy of the party is properly upheld.
This is because, not only does it create room for opportunities to viable party members, but also weakens the influence of political godfathers within the party, which will consequently aid democratisation of the party. In turn, internal democracy will help in ensuring most of the party activities are in order.
As Zanu-PF heads for primaries, processes of candidate selection have been made as open as possible. This is necessary to ensure the candidates selected are chosen based on their merits, rather than godfather-support, bribery or corruption. By repeatedly stating that there should be no candidate imposition, President Mnangagwa is merely entrenching internal democracy, which was slowly but surely disappearing in his party.
We cannot therefore overemphasise the fact that survival, effectiveness and vibrancy of a political party is largely anchored on its internal process of primaries and candidate selection process. Certainly, by using internally democratic procedures Zanu-PF is likely to select more capable and appealing candidates.