MDC-T leader Douglas Mwonzora on Tuesday announced he was withdrawing from the race to become Zimbabwe’s next president, describing the August 23 election as a “sham and a farce.”
Mwonzora said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) refused to accept nomination papers for 87 of the party’s candidates for the National Assembly, meaning that even if he won the presidency he would not have control of parliament.
“We are not going to be part of the baptism, blessing of this sham. This election is a farce,” Mwonzora told a news conference in Harare.
He said the MDC-T’s 24 constituency candidates who successfully filed nomination papers will still participate in the election.
“We have seen massive disenfranchisement, mass disqualification of a good number of people. There is no doubt why the MDC is being treated in a different manner from other political parties, it is because the MDC took ZEC to court over delimitation,” Mwonzora went on.
“The delimitation that we fought against is now in force and its effects are now clear on this election. Right now as we are speaking ZEC is busy changing boundaries of wards and constituencies. It has added more than a 1,000 more polling stations because delimitation was invalid.
“Having seriously considered this, and being a patriotic Zimbabwean, I took part in the crafting of the constitution of our land. I believe that the constitution is not there for decoration. I believe that there is a minimum standard of integrity required in our electoral system, and I believe that the mass disenfranchisement of our people, the discrimination of one party by the election management body, and with the concurrence of my party, I have withdrawn my candidature in this election. We are boycotting this farce, we are boycotting this sham, we are boycotting this presidential election.”
Mwonzora said he had advised ZEC of his withdrawal and specifically requested that his name is not included on the ballot paper. He expects ZEC to issue a public notification of his withdrawal, he said.
The MDC-T leader, who was flanked by his secretary general Tapiwa Mashakada, said he would still vote in the election, but refused to back a particular candidate.
He told reporters: “When you are boycotting, you have no-one to back, you’re refusing to participate. Why should we back someone to participate in a farce, in a theft against the people of Zimbabwe?”
Touting his credentials as a consistent campaigner for democratic ideals, Mwonzora said he would not vote Zanu PF.
“Yes, I am going to vote, I will vote for the opposition,” he said.
Mwonzora also reserved some criticism for Zimbabwe’s judiciary which threw out an appeal by his party to re-instate the 87 candidates.
“The judges have treated our cases on technicalities, we refuse to be part of that façade… Zimbabweans deserve a fair judiciary and abhor selective application of the law. We cannot stand all these shenanigans, unfairness and impunity in our electoral system,” he charged.
“I don’t want to preempt what we are going to do henceforward. We are going back to the drawing back, to kick-start a programme to ensure there will be free and fair elections in this country. We are going to reconnect with the people; the people of Zimbabwe deserve a free and fair election.”
Zimbabwe had 12 presidential candidates but independent Saviour Kasukuwere was barred by a court, although he is still appealing. Mwonzora’s withdrawal will bring the field down to 10, including Zanu PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa who is seeking re-election.
The others are main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa of the Citizens Coalition for Change; Lovemore Madhuku of the National Constitutional Assembly; Trust Chikohora of the Zimbabwe Coalition for Peace and Development; FreeZim Congress leader Joseph Makamba Busha; Zimbabwe Partnership for Prosperity leader Blessing Kasiyamhuru; National People’s Congress leader Wilbert Mubaiwa; United African National Council president Gwinyai Henry Muzorewa, Peter Harry Wilson of the Democratic Opposition Party and the only woman, Elisabeth Valerio who leads the Democratic Union of Zimbabwe.