SPEAKER of Parliament Jacob Mudenda yesterday refused to be dragged into the MDC-T internal fights, saying the House does not resolve intra-party conflicts.
Mudenda advised warring MDC-T factions – one led by party leader Morgan Tsvangirai and another by axed party secretary-general Tendai Biti — fighting over the recalling of MPs, to approach the courts for arbitration.
Mudenda said neither himself nor Senate president Edna Madzongwe had the authority to make a ruling over the threats to recall the MPs.
“In any case, neither the Honourable President of the Senate nor the Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly has authority and a role to play in internal disciplinary actions, disputes or differences within political parties, which matters may be appropriately dealt with by a competent court,” Mudenda said.
MDC-T vice-president Thokozani Khupe on May 2 wrote Mudenda indicating intent to recall nine party MPs accused of siding with Biti’s faction.
The Biti faction is composed of party members seeking Tsvangirai’s ouster as party leader.
Khupe’s letter followed one written pre-emptively by Biti on April 28 seeking to protect the MPs from being recalled by Tsvangirai.
Khupe argued that she was the one vested with the sole authority to recall MDC-T MPs as their leader in the House.
The fallout between Tsvangirai and Biti started after party deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma was assaulted at the party’s Harvest House headquarters in Harare for calling for leadership renewal.
Mangoma was suspended and eventually expelled over his stance, a move Biti described as unconstitutional.
After failing to find common ground, Biti’s faction privately met in Harare on April 26 where they “lifted” Mangoma’s suspension and went on to “suspend” Tsvangirai, Khupe, party national organising secretary Nelson Chamisa, his deputy Abedinico Bhebhe, national chairman Lovemore Moyo, his deputy Morgan Komichi and party spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora.
Yesterday, Mudenda said he had studied the correspondence from both Khupe and Biti and concluded that the letters “contained no legal issues that require the Honourable President of the Senate or the Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly to pursue or rule on whether or not to act pursuant to the provisions of section 129 (1) (k) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe”.
Mudenda added: “I have accordingly responded to the two letters from Honourable Biti and Honourable Khupe informing them accordingly.”
Biti camp spokesperson Jacob Mafume yesterday said Parliament’s decision “vindicated the position by our secretary-general [Biti]” that Tsvangirai and “his lot” had no right to recall the MPs.
“If they [Tsvangirai and his team] think they are right, they should go to court,” Mafume said.
“We are now going to proceed with the tribunal to determine their cases. We have always said Tsvangirai has bush lawyers who do not understand the law.”
But MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said Mudenda’s ruling showed that he [Mudenda] had refused to endorse Biti’s interpretation of the law.
“The Speaker has not said in his ruling that the MDC has no right to recall its Members of Parliament. He has not endorsed Biti’s claim that he is the person who has the power to recall MDC MPs,” Mwonzora said.
“For that reason, the door has been kept open for the MDC-T to recall any MP who ceases to be its member. In the next few days the MDC is, therefore, going to formally communicate with the Speaker its decision to recall the concerned MPs.”