Zimbabwe’s biggest opposition party signaled it may stick with its current leader after the High Court ruled his appointment was illegal and all decisions he made in the role null and void.
Any decision on the validity of Nelson Chamisa’s leadership “can’t be a judicial process,” Movement for Democratic Change spokesman Jacob Mafume said by phone. “The choice of leaders of any political party the world over is the sole preserve of members of that party.”
He didn’t say whether the MDC would appeal Wednesday’s ruling, which was announced by Judge Edith Mushore in the capital, Harare. It would leave the MDC without an official leader until a new party election.
The court case was brought by Elias Mashavire, an MDC official who challenged Chamisa’s appointment by the party’s long-time leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Tsvangirai named Chamisa, then deputy president, as his successor shortly before his death in February 2018.
Former Prime Minister and the late MDC founding leader, Morgan Tsvangirai violated his party’s governance charter, when he appointed then national executive members Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri as deputy presidents in July 2016, High Court Court Judge, Justice Edith Mushore ruled Wednesday.
Justice Mushore ruled that while current deputy president, Morgen Komichi cited as 6threspondent argued that the constitution that the applicant, Elias Mashavira used was wrong, he did not provided the court with an alternative and instead had gone ahead to argue matters basing on the same.
The Judge argued that the MDC constitution was clear, that the party’s vice president was supposed to occupy office through an election, thus Tsvangirai and the national council did not have power to override this.
It was Justice Mushore’s contention that 4threspondent in the matter, Thokozani Khupe having been elected in October 2014, should have taken over following Tsvangirai’s death and that the speed with which Chamisa took power had alarmed the applicant. Mashavira through his lawyers had argued he had not been invited although he had rights as a congress delegate to be at the meeting that supposedly endorsed Chamisa as successor.
Komichi whose affidavit was deposited in his capacity as national chairperson, according to Justice Mushore did not have locus standi to represent the MDC, Mwonzora and Mudzuri.
Justice Mushore ruled that Komichi had not shown evidence, that he had authority to represent the opposition party.
She added that Komichi, according to High Court rules could also not make oaths on behalf of other respondents.
“Although he made no mention of his authority to represent the 3rd (Mudzuri) respondent and 5th(Mwonzora) respondent, 6th respondent (Komichi) submitted that he is deposing on behalf of himself and the 1st respondent (MDC). Thus in essence the only party whom 6threspondent actually purports by his own submissions to represent, is 1st respondent, being the MDC. This is what he said when he introduced himself in his opposing affidavit.
“He did not show proof of such authority having been given to him by the MDC. Even in the party’s constitution itself, there is no such authority conferred to the national chairperson at anytime to enter into legal proceedings or defend legal proceedings on behalf of the first respondent.
“In fact the 6th respondent did nothing to assure the court that he has instructions from anybody for that matter. Thus with no-one to speak on its behalf the 1st respondent is also barred for failure to file an opposing affidavit,” reads the judgment in part.
Mwonzora was also barred from the court process for failure to respond to the application while Chamisa who reportedly deposited a “short affidavit” in support of Komichi was however recognised by the court.
Mashavira’s lawyers then sought to have Chamisa and Komichi barred from the process arguing they had failed to file their heads of arguments on time.
But Mushore allowed the two to file after an oral application for condonation by their lawyers. The judge ruled there was “need for the parties to have a final judgment on the matter in view of the spate of litigation that have already been involved in over the same matter.”
However, Mushore slammed Chamisa’s lawyers for trying to “re-write the law to fit his client’s narrative” by misquoting case law.
While Chamisa and Komichi argued that Mashavira should have exhausted internal remedies, before approaching the courts, Justice Mushore ruled:
“It does not take a genius to recognise that because an internal complaint would have been presided over by the very persons whose offices applicant is challenging, it would in most likelihood be determined in a partial manner thus depriving the applicant from substantial justice. In other words the respondents would essentially be presiding over their own legitimacy.”