Supreme Court reserves judgment in MDC leadership dispute

Thozani Khupe

HARARE – The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved judgement in a case which would settle the leadership dispute in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

MDC leader Nelson Chamisa is appealing a ruling of the High Court from May which found that he was appointed deputy president by the late Morgan Tsvangirai outside provisions of the party’s constitution, and should therefore not have assumed the role of acting president when the party’s founding leader died in February 2018.

The ruling favoured Thokozani Khupe, who was Tsvangirai’s only deputy before the former leader also drafted Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri as his deputies.

The challenge to Chamisa’s assumption of the MDC leadership on an acting basis was brought by Elias Mashavire, an MDC supporter from Gokwe.

The MDC held a congress in May which elected Chamisa as its president, while Khupe’s MDC-T party held its own congress a month earlier in Bulawayo which confirmed her as president.

Khupe’s lawyer Lovemore Madhuku told Supreme Court Justices Bharat Patel, Paddington Garwe and Antonia Guvava, that if Chamisa’s appeal is thrown out, every meeting he has chaired since assuming the MDC leadership should be nullified.

Madhuku said: “We’ll go back and start from February 15, 2018. All the meetings that took place after February 15 which Chamisa chaired would be unlawful.

“The meeting of February 15 (at which Chamisa was made acting president) was held hours after the death of MDC founder Mr Morgan Tsvangirai. It appears the people came for a funeral and convened the meeting.

“By that time, the party already had an acting president who is Khupe and only she had the power to convene such a meeting.”

Madhuku said the meeting was invalid and in contradiction of the party’s constitution which provides that deputy leaders are elected at congress. Only Khupe, he said, was elected by a congress.

“The president (Tsvangirai) did not have the power to appoint persons that ought to be elected. There is no point in evoking domestic remedies when it is clear they have been undermined. We pray for an order that will enable Khupe to hold an extra ordinary congress,” Madhuku said.

Ashel Mutukura, a lawyer representing Gokwe-based party member, Mashavire, said Chamisa is avoiding section 9 (2) of the party constitution which talks about succession following the death of a leader.

In response, Advocate Thabani Mpofu who is representing Chamisa said the national council – the MDC’s highest decision-making body between congresses – mandated Tsvangirai to appoint his deputies.

Mpofu also argued that Khupe has moved on and started her own party after holding a congress in Bulawayo in April 2018. A ruling of the court dismissing Chamisa’s appeal, he argued, would therefore be moot.

“What Khupe has done is to move on, and do her own thing… She held her own congress,” Mpofu told the judges. “There are three issues there, the first is that she left the party, the second is that she held her own congress and the third is that she participated in the harmonised elections (July 2018). It’s scandalous for her to seek relief which says she must be considered the president of the MDC. It’s the mother of all scandals.”