FORMER Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s leadership will be tested today when the country’s major cities elect mayors amid lack of clarity on whether MDC-T can choose candidates outside the pool of elected councillors.
MDC-T chose unelected councillors to be fielded in Bulawayo, Harare, Chitungwiza and Gweru, but the move has been publicly challenged by Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo who argues it would be a violation of the Constitution.
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora yesterday said the party was sticking to its candidates although in Bulawayo there were indications councillors had been given leeway to choose the next mayor.
National University of Science and Technology academic Mandla Nyathi had been endorsed as the candidate for the post left vacant by Thaba Moyo who lost in the MDC-T primary elections.
Mwonzora insisted the Constitution allowed the party to field unelected councillors. The High Court last week refused to hear an MDC-T application seeking to bar the government from interfering with the selection of mayors saying the matter was not urgent.
“We are definitely going to field our mayors. We will field people we think will qualify for being mayor,” Mwonzora said.
“Our position is that the law allows us to field a person who is not an elected official and we insist on the legal position and we see what happens.”
However, acting MDC-T Bulawayo chairperson Dorcas Sibanda appeared to be making a climbdown from her party’s hardline position saying councillors would choose a candidate of their choice.
“What I can say is that people will choose whoever they see fit. The party will take it from there,” she said.
“It depends on who they will see as fit to serve as mayor.
“Whatever transpires, they represent the party and we will await the outcome.”
Tsvangirai was heavily involved in the selection of mayoral candidates as he interviewed them personally.
He also vowed to ignore Chombo’s order insisting the mayors would be critical especially in Bulawayo and Harare as they would chair provincial councils.
President Robert Mugabe last week appointed Provincial Affairs ministers in all the 10 provinces, a move analysts said effectively weakened provincial councils created by the new Constitution.
In Harare, MDC-T wants to field former Justice deputy minister Obert Gutu and Isaac Manyemba in Chitungwiza.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions Central region paralegal officer Charles Chikozho was selected to represent the party in Gweru.
Harare provincial administrator Alfred Tome yesterday said he would follow Chombo’s directive when he conducts the elections for the city this morning.
“I will conduct the elections for the mayor on Monday at 10 in the morning at town house,” he said.
“That’s the position and we can’t compromise on that because that is the law. Those who are saying it’s not the law must revisit the Constitution.
“The mayor must come from those elected councillors and those who are not must not be considered. No one shall impose.”
Tsvangirai has suffered a number’s of legal setbacks since his shock defeat to President Robert Mugabe during the July 31 elections.
If his preferred candidates are not selected, it would be a major setback for the MDC-T leader who is under pressure from his own party following a poor performance in the elections won by Zanu PF.