MDC vice president pulls out of race

HARARE - Blood is on the floor in the MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as the party heads for primary elections to choose candidates ahead of a watershed general election whose timing is still a subject of bickering.

The MDC last Wednesday completed its vetting process, but so intense was the contest that “heavyweights” such as Deputy Prime Minister and MDC vice president Thokozani Khupe chickened out of her Makokoba constituency after facing the heat from State Enterprises minister Godern Moyo.

Party sources said the vetting process was heated as different factions tried to elbow past candidates pushed by rival camps. Secretariat staff recording minutes of the meeting had to be asked to leave.

“The president (Tsvangirai) will have a lot of work, patching the chasm left by the primary elections,” said a party insider, preferring anonymity.

“Factionalism is playing out badly, particularly in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces where the so called Tsvangirai/Biti factions are at each other’s throats and can barely greet each other,” she added.

MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said “no one was protected” during the vetting process adding primary elections have been set for April 20.

“What is gratifying to note is that we have more women who want to come and contest. But what is more interesting is that the so-called heavyweights are going to be challenged,” said Mwonzora, who is unchallenged in his Nyanga North constituency.

Heavyweights such as secretary-general Tendai Biti, organising secretary Nelson Chamisa and women assembly chairlady Theresa Makone are for now secure, but other party stalwarts such as Khupe are not in the comfort zone.

Mwonzora chose to be diplomatic when asked about Khupe.

“Madam Khupe is no longer going to be an elected MP because she is a national leader and we cannot confine her to a certain constituency,” he said.

However, her opposite number in Zanu PF vice president Joice Mujuru has successively fought and won elections in Mt Darwin.

In Harare, minister of Labour and Social Welfare Paurina Mpariwa is facing a stern test after four people were given the nod to go for her Mufakose seat.

Lucia Matibenga, minister of Public services is also facing challenge in her Kuwadzana constituency.
MDC Harare provincial chairperson and MP for Glen View Paul Madzore will have to wait until the fat lady sings after Last Maingehama, a party veteran, was allowed to contest for the seat.

Mabvuku constituency, which is vacant, recorded the highest number of primary poll candidates with 11, including former radio personality and Tsvangirai’s chief of protocol James Maridadi.

In Manicaland, a haven of factionalism, party chief whip Innocent Gonese faces former councillors Farai Arutura, Knowledge Nyamhoka, and Patience Rumhungwe for the Mutare Central seat.

Public Works minister Giles Mutsekwa’s Dangamvura–Chikanga constituency has attracted the interest of Brian James, who had a successful run as mayor before being booted out by Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo.

Misheck Kagurabadza, whose tenure as executive mayor saw massive improvement in service delivery, will battle Regai Tsunga for his Mutasa South constituency.

In Mutare North, which has no representative following the death of Zanu PF’s Charles Pemhenayi,  four candidates are eyeing the seat. These are Irimai Mukwishu, Mary Kuhudzai, Tonderai Gopito and Gabriel Chiwara, who has twice in a row lost parliamentary polls to Zanu PF.

Chipinge Central has two contestants Livingstone Dhlumo, Alice Chitima and Samson Sithole.

Journalist Grace Kwinjeh will slug it out with three other candidates for the Makoni Central seat.

In Masvingo, a host of professionals including lawyers, educationists and medical doctors have their hats in the ring in a bid to oust a crop of sitting MPs.

Notable legislators who will have a good run for their money include Oliver Chirume in Gutu Central, Tongai Matutu in Masvingo Urban and provincial spokesperson Harrison Mudzuri in Zaka central.

Masvingo Central MP Jefferson Chitando has already pulled out of the race.

An epic battle is set for Chiredzi West where sitting MP Moses Mare is being challenged by four aspiring candidates.

Another bruising battle is in Gutu North where MP Maramwidze Hamandishe is battling medical doctor Tichinani Mavetera and retired nurse Henrica Takaona, mother to Zimbabwe Media Commission member and former president of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists Mathew Takaona.

Tichaona Chiminya Mharadze, MP for Masvingo West, faces Harare businessman Takanai Mureyi.

Gutu East MP Rensome Makamaure, will battle it out with Beria Musimudziwa, a local businessman while Ernest Mudavanhu of Zaka Central will battle it out with Harare-based lawyer Simon Mupindu.

But observers say, just like Zanu PF, Tsvangirai’s MDC faces an uphill task of bringing warring factions together for a general election likely to be the hardest fought since independence in 1980. - Fungi Kwaramba, Sydney Saize and Godfrey Mtimba

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