3000 delegates for MDC-T extra-ordinary congress

MDC-T is set to hold its contentious Extra-Ordinary Congress this Saturday and is expecting 3 000 delegates drawn from across the country despite the risk of Covid-19.

The party said it had discussed with police in Harare, who had verbally indicated the congress could go on subject to them engaging the Ministry of Health and Child Care for guidance.

MDC-T added that 20 Covid-19 compliance enforcement officers were trained to monitor the 3 000 delegates.

Four candidates – Dr Thokozani Khupe, Senators Morgan Komichi, Elias Mudzuri and Douglas Mwonzora are vying for the presidency, as according to the Supreme Court ruling in March that ordered a fresh congress to replace the late leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.

Responding to questions from the press at the Media Centre in Bulawayo on Monday, MDC-T secretary-general, Mwonzora said preparations for the congress were at an advanced stage.

“We are expecting 3 000 delegates on December 19, 2020, at the Sheraton (Rainbow Towers) Hotel. This is going to be a physical congress and delegates are going to be ferried across the country to the venue. This congress’ single issue is to vote for the president and no conventional address would take place after voting. Delegates would be addressed Friday night virtually,” he said.

The election is going to be conducted by an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) headed by the Deputy Secretary-General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), made up of members of the civic society, trade union movements and some people from the church, Mwonzora said.

He added MDC-T had made a lot of security arrangements to deal with suspected elements who may cause possible disturbances.

“The congress is for MDC-T members, not those who have joined other political parties such as people who were expelled and recalled from the party. Hopefully, after voting for a president, we will have a candidate for the 2023 election, so we don’t want opponents there ,” he said.

“Provinces are to prepare and verify the voters roll then hand them over to the IEC who will oversee printing of the ballot papers. We want this election to be as free, fair and conventional as possible so the ballot papers will be informed by size of the voters roll but we will print extra to deal with mistakes a voter may make.”

The secretary-general insisted that MDC-T had taken measures to prevent a potential spread of Covid-19 and the delegates would enter the auditorium in batches of 100, accompanied by one compliance official.  

“We looked at a number of options to prevent spread so the first option was having it centralised where people would come, vote and it is something they are used to anyway. We discussed decentralisation but since we have to be big on security, it was going to be very difficult and we felt stretched administratively as well,” he said.

“We thought of having a virtual conference but we condemned it because the secrecy of the vote would be lost, voting online meant people would know who voted for who and not. The other issue was tied to connectivity, which is a big issue in our country especially with the rainy season and technologically we are not prepared to deal with challenges that come with voting online such as hacking.”

Mwonzora claimed the delegates would not congregate as 3 000 at once but each province would be allocated intervals to enter the venue.

“At the venue, people would occupy the western and southern grounds. Social distancing would be observed and enforced by the marshals. The delegates will enter the auditorium at the Harare International Conference Centre in batches of 100,” he said.

MDC-T would supply the buses to ferry delegates and Mwonzora said people would wear face masks while sanitisation will be done upon entry and exit.

“Temperature testing and sanitisation would be done at the premises and wearing of masks would be enforced. Provincial delegates will wait for their turn to vote at the grounds and they will be in a group of 300 in average. The Ministry of Health and Department of Health from Harare City have been invited to make sure we are complying and can advise on any intervention. I think we have dealt very well with the issue of the Covid-19 menace,” said the secretary-general.

Mwonzora was in the company of Deputy Chairman of the Guardian Council of the MDC Senator Cephas Makuyana, also a founder member the MDC and former trade unionist with the Food and Allied Workers Union and member of the General council of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

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