MDC-T leader Douglas Mwonzora withdraws from Zimbabwe election race

But electoral body says it's too late

11 August 2023 - 11:59
By Sharon Mazingaizo
 Douglas Mwonzora has withdrawn from the Zimbabwean election race, claiming unfair and discriminatory treatment from the electoral body.
Image: Douglas Mwonzora via Twitter Douglas Mwonzora has withdrawn from the Zimbabwean election race, claiming unfair and discriminatory treatment from the electoral body.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) has withdrawn from Zimbabwe’s August 23 election, citing mismanagement by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

During a press conference in Harare, leader Douglas Mwonzora said he was withdrawing because of “unfair and discriminatory” treatment from the electoral body.

Mwonzora said the ZEC disqualified 87 of the party’s candidates for late payment of nomination fees. He described the election as “discriminatory, farce and a sham”.

“On June 21, the MDC had 87 of its parliamentary candidates unfairly disqualified by the ZEC. The reason given is that they had failed to pay their nomination fees, yet it was ZEC that had made it impossible for these people to pay their nomination fees,” he said.

“When the extension was done the following morning, MDC was excluded from benefiting from this extension. We view this as very discriminatory.

“What that means is that there was massive disenfranchisement in 87 constituencies as 87 of our candidates were no longer on the ballot paper.

“What is clear is that the MDC has been treated in a very discriminatory manner by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. For that reason, after consultation with the National Council of the MDC, it was decided that we will boycott this election.

“This presidential election is a farce, it is a sham, it is far from free and unfair. We are going to advise of the method of struggle that we are going to embark on henceforth”

Mwonzora said he advised ZEC and requested his name not be included on the ballot paper.

The ZEC has refused to comply, saying it is too late as Mwonzora has missed the 21-day notice period.

The ZEC said in a notice that “candidates nominated for election as president can withdraw from the election by informing the chief elections officer of the ZEC in writing, 21 days before the polling day”.

On Thursday, MDC wrote a letter to the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) informing the police of its intention to hold a peaceful demonstration on August 17 to “demand electoral reforms in Zimbabwe”.

MDC has a history of instability and power struggles. In 2021, Mwonzora wrested leadership from stalwart Nelson Chamisa, who ran the MDC Alliance party after the death of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in 2018. Mwonzora captured the symbol of the party, the MDC headquarters in Harare, but many voters perceived MDC to be a project and a puppet of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

Chamisa went on to form the main opposition party, Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) in 2022.

The presidential race has 11 candidates, including incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Chamisa, considered the strongest challenger to Mnangagwa.