HARARE – Nelson Chamisa’s MDC party has an uphill task between now and the next polls in 2023 to navigate strong legal and political headwinds blowing in its direction, in what appears to be a systematic attempt by its rivals to sink the party.
By Fungi Kwaramba
Before the ink has even dried on a Constitutional Court (Con-Court) ruling that collapsed the party’s hopes of forming an alternative government, Chamisa’s party now finds itself fighting for survival.
The Daily News can report that the MDC is groaning under the weight of costly legal suits and an on-going crackdown targeting its strategists and top officials.
For instance, as a consequent of losing its Con-Court challenge, Zanu PF’s legal team intends to present a staggering $3 million bill for costs incurred in fighting Chamisa’s application, which unsuccessfully sought to reverse President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s wafer-thin win at the July 30 polls.
Chamisa’s erstwhile colleagues in the MDC-T led by Thokozani Khupe are also banging war drums, signalling their intention to take him to court to assert their rights as the legitimate MDC.
Khupe’s party has drawn first blood by demanding a share of the $1,8 million disbursed to Chamisa’s party under the Political Parties Finance Act.
To add salt to injury, 17 former MDC workers who were chucked out of the party in 2014 following the ugly fallout between Tendai Biti — the party’s former secretary-general — and the late Morgan Tsvangirai, are gunning for the party’s assets to recover their dues.
A former director of the MDC, Toendepi Shonhe, has already moved to attach property at the party’s Harvest House headquarters, renamed Morgan Tsvangirai House, over a
$264 000 debt.
Shonhe is among the 17 ex-MDC employees who won their case in the Labour Court and want the judgment to be enforced.
Chamisa claimed yesterday that there was a “devious” plot by Zanu PF and its proxies to collapse the MDC.
“We are aware they want to close the MDC within the next six months using dirty tactics. Yes, we have heard of lawsuits and costs on the Con-Court case, but nothing official has come,” said Chamisa, speaking thorough his spokesperson, Nkululeko Sibanda.
“We, however, know that there is a broader strategy to squeeze the MDC and kill it. Unfortunately, there are underestimating president … Chamisa — that is what they did during the elections and lost”.
Zanu PF’s secretary for legal affairs Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana said they have no intention to annihilate the MDC, which is barely surviving due to an economic crunch that has decimated its potential sources of funding.
Mangwana said the Judiciary, as an independent arm of the State, will pronounce itself when the time comes.
Said Mangwana: “The intention is not to destroy the MDC: Chamisa is a lawyer (and) he should know the normal process of a legal challenge. We will submit our costs to the court and the courts will make its determination; he should not panic”.
Khupe’s deputy, Obert Gutu, said the $1,8 million disbursed to Chamisa belonged to them since they were the legitimate party.
“We are consulting with our lawyers; we want everything because we are the legitimate MDC,” said Gutu, declining claims by Chamisa’s party that there were trying to punish their former comrades for the fallout that followed Tsvangirai’s death in February this year.
Analysts canvassed by the Daily News yesterday said judging from Zanu PF’s history of vindictiveness, the crackdown on the MDC’s officials and the string of lawsuits could be hell-bent on punishing Chamisa for refusing to accept Mnangagwa’s rule.
Maxwell Saungweme, a political analyst, said the legal suits could be political tactics to pummel Chamisa into capitulation, and acquiesce to Mnangagwa’s overtures for working together.
“The timing of these awards and attachment of the party’s properties is curious. You can’t rule out the invisible hand of the regime in this. We know from our history that Zanu PF can do anything, including manipulating judiciary processes to whip their adversary into submission or weaken its resolve,” said Saungweme.
“…The suits from ex-MDC staff and that from Khupe are also enough to cause sleepless nights for Chamisa and his ability to move his outfit forward. These are political diversionary strategies dressed in a veneer of legality meant to derail efforts of a 40-year-old who garnered over two million votes and whose bid to State House was stolen through the use of captured institutions,” he added.
Namibian based scholar Admire Mare said it was within Zanu PF’s DNA to use any means possible to destroy its rivals just as was the attempt to destroy Zapu in the 1980s.
“It is very likely that a number of legal and extra-legal measures will be used to cripple and infiltrate the MDC Alliance. Court legal fees are just one of the many options at the hands of the regime. As for the impact on legal bills on the MDC Alliance, it may affect them in the short to medium-term but in the long run well-wishers and crowd-funding strategies will come to their rescue,” he said.
Mare said the Khupe-led MDC-T might not be in bed with Zanu PF but they were strategically positioning themselves for the spoils and stratagems.
“Remember our politics is based on the notion of winner takes all so whoever wins controls who gets what, when and how. That is why we are seeing opportunistic elements within the ruling party and opposition reaching out to the winners so that they can have access to the levers of the State and its accompanying resources,” said Mare.
But professor of World Politics at the London School of African and Oriental Studies Stephen Chan disagreed, saying the problems for Chamisa were just about to begin and have nothing to do with Zanu PF.
Chan said Zanu PF does not need to play any active role in the problems of the MDC because the rush to secure leadership in the days leading up to and after the death of Tsvangirai meant that disposition of funds and property, the rights of employees and a host of administrative matters were never resolved.
“Former partners in the MDC became very bitter with one another. There will also be other challenges of a political nature to do with leadership in the MDC Alliance,” said Chan.