By Everson Mushava/Moses Matenga
MDC-T is plotting a wholesale recall of Harare and Bulawayo councillors after its candidate was defeated in mayoral elections in the capital city in a move observers say will virtually collapse the two local authorities.
The Thokozani Khupe-led party’s candidate Luckson Mukunguma was defeated by Jacob Mafume of the MDC Alliance in hotly contested polls last week.
Mafume replaced Herbert Gomba, who was recalled by the MDC-T a fortnight ago as part of a battle for the control of the capital.
Other councillors that were recalled along Gomba were Hammy Madzingira, Kudzai Kadzombe, Gaudencia Marere, Costa Mande and Happymore Gotora.
On Friday the MDC-T held an emergency Standing Committee meeting in Harare to review the mayoral election setback and insiders said a decision was made to recall 11 councillors from Harare and six from Bulawayo to hit back at the MDC Alliance camp
led by Nelson Chamisa.
Five councillors would allegedly be recalled from Marondera council.
In Harare, the MDC-T strategy was allegedly to limit the MDC Alliance councillors to only eight, against the faction’s 14.
This would allow the party to use its majority in council to appoint its members to key positions such as committee chair posts.
“Eleven councillors are being targeted and they include deputy mayor Enock Mupamawonde, our chief whip Loveness Gomba and committee chairpersons and their deputies,” an MDC-T insider claimed.
“The idea is to target those who nominated Mafume and seconded him, strong councillors and those in key positions that should be taken over by the MDC-T.”
The insider said the MDC-T never expected to lose the mayoral election.
“The faction was thrown into a quandary after the loss because it had been assured by [interim secretary-general Douglas] Mwonzora that Mukunguma would win,” another source said.
“Other standing committee members want a lot of councillors who voted against them recalled, accusing them of being ungrateful for not being recalled.”
Sources said Mwonzora would write a letter to Local Government minister July Moyo ordering the recalls of the councillors accused of defying Khupe’s orders.
Mwonzora, however, denied that the meeting resolved to recall more councillors.
“The best person to talk to is the spokesperson [Khaliphani Phugeni] or the national chairperson,” he said.
“I was in the meeting briefly. Maybe something like that was discussed, but it is not true. When we make recalls, we will tell the whole country,” Mwonzora said.
“We don’t just recall, we recall pursuant to certain misdeeds. There is no truth in that.”
Morgen Komichi, the party’s interim chairperson, confirmed the meeting conducted a postmortem of the mayoral elections, but insisted there was no decision on the recalls.
“We had a postmortem of the elections of mayors,” Komichi said.
“We just made discussions, but no decision was made to recall anyone.”
Mafume warned the MDC-T against being “enemies of progress” as further recalls would collapse service delivery in the city.
“What we know is that if they continue on that path, they will collapse the council and it is the residents that will suffer and also, it is most likely that their own councillors will not be able to return should the council collapse and by-elections are held,” Mafume said.
“They need to be very mature and stop throwing toys out of the cot.
“They should focus on residents’ issues and the residents simply want their interests served and not to see politicians behaving in that manner.”
Eleven councillors have so far been recalled in Harare.
The capital had 45 councillors from the MDC Alliance and one from Zanu PF before the recalls.
Thirty-five councillors voted with 19 opting for Mafume, 14 elected Mukunguma while one paper was spoilt after one councillor simply wrote “ED Pfee”, a campaign slogan for President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Jameson Timba, the MDC Alliance presidential affairs secretary, said they knew that the MDC-T was working with Zanu PF to collapse councils run by the party.
“First, we are aware that Zanu PF is working with Thokozani Khupe, Mwonzora and company to disrupt service delivery in Harare by paralysing the operations of the city council through their unlawful recall of councillors,” Timba said.
“We are also aware that they are inimical to democracy and will go out of their way to reverse the will of the people of Harare as expressed on July 31, 2018.
“Let me put it on record that the terms of office of the MDC-T anarchists, who masquerade as constitutionalists expired in October 2019, in addition, the court extended terms of office to July 31 and they do not have any legal mandate to purport to act for and on behalf of the defunct MDC.
“Any such purported recall is null and void. Any such purported recall is voidable.”
The recalls of councillors has been criticised by residents’ associations, who say it will give the government an excuse to impose handpicked commissions to run cities under MDC Alliance control.
Besides the recalling of councillors, Khupe’s group has also been withdrawing legislators that were voted into the National Assembly and Senate via MDC Alliance tickets.