The battle for the control of Zimbabwe’s mainstream opposition party pitting Nelson Chamisa and Thokozani Khupe will be fought in the courts once again after four legislators approached the High Court challenging their expulsion from Parliament.
Members of Parliament Chalton Hwende, Prosper Mutseyami, Tabitha Khumalo and senator Lillian Timveous were recalled from Parliament a fortnight ago after Douglas Mwonzora initiated the process.
Mwonzora defected to the Khupe camp following the March 31 Supreme Court judgement that said the former deputy prime minister was MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s legitimate successor.
Mwonzora said the legislators were fired for insisting that they belonged to the MDC Alliance. Hwende and Timveos on Friday filed a High Court application challenging National Assembly speaker Jacob Mudenda and senate president Mabel Chinomona’s decision to recall them based on a letter by Mwonzora.
Unconfirmed reports last night said seven more legislators faced the same fate on Tuesday.
Hwende, who was the Kuwadzana East MP, in the application supported by Mutseyami and Khumalo said Mudenda cited as the first responded lacked objectivity.
“The first respondent, a politburo member of Zanu-PF, has abandoned all objectivity and has descended into a political arena, with the sole purpose of destroying our party the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance,” he said in the court application.
“This is regrettable, embarrassing and unbefitting for a man with alleged legal qualifications.”
Hwende said since their election in 2018 they had been treated in Parliament as members of the MDC alliance and they were baffled why they were now being referred to as MDC-T members.
“Our party, the MDC alliance fielded candidates in constituencies for election as Members of Parliament in terms of section 46 of the electoral act [Chapter 2:13],” submitted Hwende through his lawyers, Mafume Law Chambers.
“In our case, our forms were filed and signed for as is required by the law. at all material times we were MDC alliance.
“In all our communication with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] we were MDC alliance.
“We registered election agents through the MDC alliance.
“They were accredited for as MDC alliance. at no stage, were we ever anything other than the MDC alliance.”
The legislators said Mudenda and Chinomona acted illegally by apportioning themselves powers of the courts.
“It is our contention that this speaker and senate president’s actions were wrong and unlawful,” they added.
“In so announcing our expulsion by a party other than the MDC alliance, the speaker exercised a quasi-judicial function under circumstances where he unlawfully failed to hear us or respect our due process rights.
“Further, having dealt with us for two and a half years as MDC alliance, he was stopped and barred from treating us any differently or giving us a new label or name without due process.
“He very well knew that he has no authority to represent the MDC alliance or anyone for that matter.”
The legislators also said Mwonzora’s term as MDC-T secretary-general had expired.
In the March 31 ruling, the Supreme Court ordered the party to hold an extraordinary congress to elect Tsvangirai’s successor using the 2014 structures.
“In any event, having been elected at a congress in October 2014, his term of office as an office-bearer expired in October 2019,” the legislators argued.
“Factually, we never ceased to belong to the political party that we have been members of at the time we participated in the election, namely the Movement for Democratic Change alliance [MDC alliance].”
The legislators that remain loyal to Chamisa said their seats could not be donated to Khupe, who was also a candidate in the elections and contested using a different party logo and name.
The four argued that they were expelled without any due process.
“The MDC-T expelled us without due process and without complying with the provisions of any law or its own purported constitution,” Hwende and Timveos argued.
“It made a false declaration on April 3, 2020, communicated to Parliament, regarding our membership in terms of section 129 (1) (k) of the constitution of Zimbabwe.
“It purported to exercise jurisdiction over us when we are members of the MDC alliance.
“It carried out an unconstitutional coup d’état by usurping, and giving itself authority over our party the MDC alliance itself.
“It ignored the fundamental legal position that a political party is a voluntary association whose rights and interests are protected by section 56, 58 and 67 of the constitution of Zimbabwe.
“In 2018 we voluntarily chose to be part of the MDC alliance.”
The legislators said according to the electoral act, the MDC alliance was recognised as a political party when it took part in the 2018 elections.
“[We] need to make the point further that the electoral act itself defines a political party to mean any political organisation.
“In other words, a political organisation known as the MDC alliance participated in the 2018 harmonised elections,” they argued.
“[We] also need to state that the fourth respondent and her party, performed poorly in the said election. she polled 45 573 votes, which was less than 1% of the total vote.
“Her party also performed poorly.
“It did not win a single constituent seat but by hook and crook, managed one seat in the senate and one proportional seat in the National assembly.
“Zec has accepted us as a political party.
“We have received funding from the government in terms of the Political Parties Finance act because we are a political party.
“Every other organ of the state has recognised us as MDC alliance.
“For instance, the Minister of Finance and the minister of Justice continually disburse funds to us in terms of the Political Parties Finance act.
“The speaker could not exercise quasi-judicial functions in making a finding that we belong to the MDC-T without affording us protection of the law, the right to a fair hearing, [and] the right to administrative justice.”
The MDC Alliance has also approached the High Court seeking to bar the government from disbursing money entitled to it under the Political Parties Finance act to Khupe’s party.