By Political Reporter- There is discord at the recently revived National Electoral Reform Agenda (NERA) after leaders of the opposition parties forming the political platform suspect MDC-T leader Douglas Mwonzora of pushing personal agendas.
Mwonzora was appointed the spokesperson of NERA last week.
Several politicians in NERA believe that MDC-T leader is attempting to revive his waning political career by reinventing himself as the leader of opposition parties.
On January 18, several political party representatives signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Harare and on Wednesday, January 24, 2024, NERA members will be in Bulawayo to meet political leaders in Matabeleland to complete the signing process.
However, some politicians claim Mwonzora “is clutching at straws after losing relevance in terms of genuine politics” and question “what reforms will NERA implement that the opposition failed to effect in Parliament.”
They further warned that opposition parties must “avoid hopping into bed with weird partners and shady characters.”
Other parties, such as ZAPU, have chosen not to participate in NERA and are ‘upset’ that their leader, Sibanagilizwe Nkomo, was elected Secretary for Policy and Research without the party’s consent or notification prior to the public unveiling of the new NERA executive.
“ZAPU did not sign the MoU. Our participation was aimed at fostering dialogue and understanding as has always been the case in situations like this, but our decision not to sign the MoU reflects our commitment to independent decision-making as a party under the guidance of our National Executive Council,” said ZAPU Deputy Spokesperson Washington Jamela who indicated ZAPU attended the NERA meetings “as a gesture of collaboration for the betterment of Zimbabwe.”
Jamela said ZAPU remains dedicated to the democratic process and will continue to engage in initiatives that align with our principles and vision for Zimbabwe’s future.
“However, it is mischievous, misleading and wrong on the part of the NERA organisers to assign a task to our president knowing clearly that we are not a member of that organisation,” he said.
In an interview with CITE, Mwonzora said the opposition parties decided to revive NERA after last year’s August election, seeing a need to challenge the new delimitation process.
“It became necessary for political actors to find one another and after the August elections, we started serious discussions about revising NERA and on 18 January 2024, we signed the first batch of politicians and civil society. We are now targeting the political leaders in Matabeleland for them to complete the signing process,” he said.
“After which we are going into the business of NERA, which is to advocate for electoral reform in the country.”
Mwonzora dismissed claims that he was trying to rebrand his political career, saying “people are always going to criticise others when they try to do something beneficial for the country.”
“It is clear this country needs electoral reforms and those people who are criticising us have done nothing towards electoral reform. This issue of electoral reform was open to anybody who wanted. The fact that we have come up and we are trying to revive this, will always find condemnation.”
The MDC-T leader admitted he had also heard reports that NERA was receiving funding from Zanu PF but said it was false.
“I don’t know to what end, but this criticism will always come. Haters will always be there, but what is important is we must do what is in the best interests of our country and right now our country needs electoral reforms,” Mwonzora said.
Regarding ZAPU’s concern of being ‘dragged’ into NERA, Mwonzora stated, “the positions that were announced at the first meeting are proposals, and the individual leaders are free to take them up or not.”
“ZAPU was actually represented in Harare. We are not so sure how they deal with their representation, but it was represented. We don’t think there is any objection to ZAPU taking part in electoral reforms. But we are yet to hear from them,” said the MDC-T leader.
He also acknowledged that there was a possibility of infiltration in NERA but hoped that “everybody is genuine.”
“A lot happens in Zimbabwe. I cannot vouch for individuals, whether those in NERA or outside NERA for that matter. There are people with questionable dealings in this country who are outside NERA so right now we are bound by the MoU that we signed as the political parties. We cannot tell who is genuine and who is not at this point in time,” Mwonzora said.
NERA was formed in 2015 to specifically deal with the absence of electoral reforms in 2013 such as disputed elections, and electoral malpractices such as violence and fraud among others.
“NERA involved more than one political party and its first engagement was with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) when it was still under Justice Rita Makarau. NERA negotiated for the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system and also went on to take part in the procurement of the machinery and infrastructure,” said Mwonzora.
However, NERA died naturally in 2018 as a result of succession issues within the MDC-T following the death of leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Mwonzora added, noting that electoral reform remains absent.