ZIMBABWE’S main opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) has accused the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda and the President of the Senate Mabel Chinomona of acting in contempt of court after they allowed further recalls of lawmakers and councillors sanctioned by self-imposed secretary-general of the party Sengezo Tshabangu to sail in open defiance of a High Court order.
The CCC, through its lawyer Obey Shava, plans to challenge the illegal action by Mudenda and Chinomona of recalling CCC MPs including opposition chief whip Amos Chibaya, senators and councillors including Harare mayor Ian Makone and his deputy, Kudzai Kadzombe.
“We reiterate that there is a court order stopping any further recalls and we are taking action against it, we are challenging it before the courts,” said Shava, the party’s lawyer in the matters that are currently before the courts.
Tshabangu has recalled over 30 MPs in what critics and opposition party activists say is a ploy by Zanu-PF and the state apparatus to weaken the party and push for a two-thirds majority dominance of the ruling party.
The party, through its president Nelson Chamisa and deputy spokesperson Gift Siziba, who was also recalled, have openly questioned Tshabangu’s credentials as well as endgame in the rapidly unfolding political drama.
On 14 November 2023, Mudenda and Chinomona read letters from Tshabangu that recalled 13 members of the National Assembly and five senators respectively.
This was in open defiance of the High Court order granted by Justice Tawanda Chitapi, which stated that recalls be halted until a determination on the matter where the CCC is challenging the eligibility of Tshabangu to act in the capacity of secretary-general.
“Pending the determination of this urgent application, the 1st Respondent shall not purport to nor issue any suspensions of an letters of suspension of any members of The National Assembly, The Senate or Local Authorities elected under the Applicant’s ticket and the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Respondents as the case may be, shall not effect any recalls made pursuant to any request by the 1st Respondent in terms hereof,” read Justice Chitapi’s order that had been granted on the same day at 11am.
Despite this judgement, Mudenda went on to read the recall letters from Tshabangu, and in his defence he said: “Fourth announcement, Section 129 (1)(k) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides that ‘a seat of a Member of Parliament becomes vacant, if the Member ceases to belong to the political party of which he or she was a Member, when elected to Parliament and the political party concerned, by written notice to the Speaker or the President of the Senate, as the case may be, has declared that the Member has ceased to belong to it’. Accordingly, I have to inform the House that with effect from 7th November, 2023, the following Members ceased to be Members for Citizens Coalition for Change Political Party. First, Admore Chivero — Chegutu West Constituency; Stephen Chatiza — Goromonzi South Constituency; Gift Ostallos Siziba — Pelandaba Constituency; Tapfumanei Willard Madzimbamuto — Seke Constituency; Oliver Mutasa — Zvimba East Constituency; Amos Chibaya — Mkoba North Constituency; Emma Muzondiwa — Midlands PR; Machirairwa Mugidho — Masvingo PR; Constance Chihota Mashonaland East PR; Monica Mukwada — Manicaland PR; Linnet Mazingaidzo — Harare Province and Dephine Gutsa — Mashonaland East PR,” read Mudenda. Just as he completed making his announcement, CCC MP for Hwange Central, Daniel Molokele rose on a point of order to make Mudenda aware of the court order.
“On a point of order, Mr Speaker Sir. Having listened to your announcement, I need to clarify whether the Honourable Speaker is aware that earlier today, the High Court of Zimbabwe ruled — there was a court ruling today that nullified any further recalls, pending the finalisation of the matter that is before the courts. Is the Honourable Speaker not aware of that ruling of the High Court that there are no further recalls, pending that decision?” queried Molokele.
In his defence, the Speaker said he was yet to receive the copy of the order, although at law, a court order is effective on pronouncement and not only when put on paper.
“I have not received from any representative of the Citizens Coalition for Change Political Party a copy of that Order. Once that Court Order is received and states what you are saying, in terms of the law, the Court Order will supersede the recall accordingly. So, as soon as I get that, I will act in terms of the Court Order. Thank you,” said Mudenda.
On that same day, in the Senate, the recall of five senators was announced, but there was no resistance from the senators.
“Section 129 (l) (k) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides that: ‘a seat of a Member of Parliament becomes vacant if the Member has ceased to belong to the political party of which he or she was a Member when elected to Parliament and the political party concerned, by written notice to the Speaker or the President of the Senate as the case maybe, declare that the Member has ceased to belong to the party’. I therefore wish to inform the House that with effect from the 10th of November 2023, the following Members ceased to be Members of Citizens Coalition for Change political party. 1. Hon. Sen Webster Maondera Harare 2. Hon. Sen Jameson Timba Harare 3. Hon. Sen Editor Matamisa Mashonaland West 4. Hon. Sen Vongai Tome Harare 5. Hon. Sen Ralph T Magunje Mashonaland West Accordingly, if the aforesaid five Members are in the House, may they respectively leave the House now.”
The following day, 15 November, Mudenda continued with parliamentary business despite being served with the order. CCC chief whip, Clifford Hlatywayo, raised on a point of order to again remind the speaker of the court order.
“On a point of order. Mr Speaker, yesterday you informed the House that you had received a letter from one Tshabangu, illegally recalling CCC Members of Parliament. We informed you Mr Speaker that there is a court process that was underway and a judgement from the court was there to stop any recalls from one Tshabangu. Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, you promised the House that you are going to reinstate the Citizens Coalition for Change Members of Parliament after receiving that judgement. I understand, Mr Speaker, that you have received that judgement and we expect you to then action your promise to reinstate Members of Parliament who were illegally recalled by Tshabangu,” said Hlatywayo.
Mudenda changed tune, saying the court order had no consequence on notices of recalls that were submitted before the ruling. “You must be very careful in interpreting legal language. The court made an interim relief and the interim relief was made after I had made the announcement. The delivery of that relief was given after the announcement, you must be very logical.
“Further, the notice of recall is effective from the date of the letter which is the 7 th of November 2023. If you read paragraph four of that interim relief, it says the respondent, Tshabangu, was indicted from making any further recalls from that sitting of that court. There is no way the Judge would say no to make any further recalls when in fact the recalls were made. So, in my discussion with Honourable Hlatywayo, in the presence of Honourable Hwende and Honourable Gumbo, the lawyer in my boardroom, I explained to them having been sent as emissaries by CCC members of Parliament that as the judge indicated, the matter will be finalised, that is the urgent application, will be finalised on Monday. After the finalisation of that matter on Monday, the National Assembly Speaker and the Senate President will be directed in terms of the status of the first respondent, Tshabangu, that is what we agreed on yesterday. I thought we understood each other. So, the recall of the 7th of November stands and is, not affected by the interim relief and further, do not be misled by NewsDay and Daily News who totally misunderstood that interim relief. So, I rule that the notice read yesterday stands and those members who were affected can they kindly leave the chamber,” said Mudenda.
In the Senate, Senator Nonhlanhla Mlotshwa rose on a point of order to make the President of the Senate aware that there is a court order against recalls.
“I rise on a point of order. Yesterday, our senators were recalled but we had a High Court interdict stopping the Senate and the National Assembly from recalling our members. We need clarification on whether this House is going to follow the interdict,” said Mlotshwa.
The President of the Senate said the court process is a parallel process to Parliament’s process.
“Thank you, Honourable Mlotshwa. Unfortunately, that issue is not for debate in this House as the case is with the courts. So we will allow the courts to do their work and if any instruction is given to us, we will comply,” said the acting Senate president.
In the aftermath of the recall, Mabvuku-Tafara residents petitioned Parliament to reinstate their member of Parliament, but Mudenda dismissed it.
“I have the following announcements. First, I wish to inform the House that on 18th October, 2023, Parliament of Zimbabwe received a petition from the residents of Mabvuku and Tafara constituency, beseeching Parliament to reverse the recall of their member of Parliament. The petition was deemed inadmissible because the petitioners’ prayer falls outside the jurisdiction or mandate of Parliament,” said the Speaker on the same day he announced the second batch of recalls.
Meanwhile, many were left in awe this week when the party led by Nelson Chamisa, the Citizens’ Coalition for Change, was described as a reincarnation of the MDC-Alliance by Tshabangu.
Tshabangu’s lawyer, Nqobani Sithole, said the CCC is not a new creation but a rebranded MDC-Alliance.
“The MDC moved or morphed into CCC, the events of the 21st day of February (January) 2022 leading to the 22nd day of February (January) 2022 where a decision was made, Job Sikhala presided over it as the chairperson of the party at the material time. That the MDC (Alliance) is going to participate in an election as CCC and every other office bearer in that respect is retained,” said Sithole.
The judge indefinitely reserved judgement in the matter.
Source – newshawks