BY BLESSED MHLANGA/ BRENNA MATENDERE
THE just-ended MDC congress was a logistical nightmare, with the party failing to meet set timelines and pushing voting into the dead of the night.
Already, knives are out for organising secretary Amos Chibaya, who stands accused of failing to co-ordinate processes and leaving the congress in shambles, only to be saved by determined delegates.
Congress failed to kick off on time on Friday, with the youth and women assemblies failing to receive reports from the outgoing leaders.
Election of the youth assembly leaders ran into the night, resulting in women elections being deferred to Sunday.
There were also concerns over the snail pace of the voting process, which saw some delegates giving up, thereby denying them the right to vote for their candidates of choice.
Chibaya, however, defended the processes and said everything was done above board.
“It is not true that the youths voting process was deliberately pushed into the night. According to the programme, Friday was for travel and voting. So although some youths were early birds and pitched up early in the morning, the voting could only begin after all had arrived. For example, youths from Shurugwi and Kwekwe understandably came early, but remember, we had others from far places like Kariba, Binga, Chiredzi and so on. So it was not a delay or deliberate move to push voting into the night,” he said.
He also attributed the postponement of the women assembly voting from Friday to Sunday to the “unforeseen lengthy deliberations in the thematic committees”.
“The congress was not only about voting. Soon after official opening, we broke into thematic committee groups, whose ideas were significant in shaping our resolutions and defining the path for change. So that process took long and had to see voting for women assembly being done the following day. Accusations against the organising department are baseless. We had adequate lighting at night and even when Zesa cut us off, Plan B was already there and night was like noon,” the Mkoba legislator said.
Chibaya was accused of setting up one polling station and failing to open polls early until party president Nelson Chamisa and Jacob Mafume had to intervene late in the afternoon.
Polls only opened at 11am, with Manicaland province taking to the ballot first until around 4pm.
Chamisa had to order the opening of more polling stations and purchase of ballot buckets when the few that had been made available were fast used up, further delaying the voting process.
Out of the 6 200 accredited delegates, close to 4 400 voted in the elections, while some could not because they did not carry their national identity cards with them.
Some delegates alleged that they were turned away and failed to cast their ballots despite having their names on the voters roll.
Mfundo Mlilo, the spokesperson of an independent election commission appointed by the MDC to run the congress polls, dismissed allegations of victimising voters, saying some delegates were denied the right to vote due to enhanced mechanisms of transparency.
“In order for one to vote, they had to have their name on the voters roll and have an ID to prove their identity. So if your name was in the roll, but you did not have an ID, you could not vote,” the civic rights activist said.
The voting process, although slow, was conducted in the full glare of external observers and journalists, while the counting and verification was done in the open with cameras allowed in every process.
A number of congress delegates were unhappy with the manner in which the party handled planning and logistics.
A senior official, who refused to be named, said the MDC was saved by a committed and dedicated team of supporters.
“This is the worst congress we have had in our existence. The organising secretary let us down. Transport was not co-ordinated. We failed to finish on time and accommodation for our delegates was the worst,” the senior member said.
In a wide-ranging interview, new treasurer-general David Coltart committed to change the manner in which the MDC would be run going forward.
He said his duty was to introduce efficiency to the party and ensure all its programmes were well-funded, while infrastructure was maintained.