ZANU PF’s expelled long-serving members Didymus Mutasa (former secretary for administration) and Rugare Gumbo (former secretary for information) yesterday took President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF to court, challenging their recent dismissal and seeking nullification of the party’s congress resolutions.
VENERANDA LANGA/CHARLES LAITON
The legal challenge — filed at the High Court by the pair’s lawyers Nyakutombwa and Mugabe — came a few hours after Mutasa had been stripped of his Headlands parliamentary seat alongside Hurungwe West MP Temba Mliswa by Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda on Zanu PF’s orders.
In their court challenge, the expelled party stalwarts cited Mugabe, Zanu PF and party spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo as respondents. The pair
said they were seeking to challenge the “unlawfulness and unconstitutionality of certain appointments and decisions that were made and of certain constitutional amendments that were made during the party’s congress”.
Gumbo was fired from Zanu PF last December on yet-to-be proven allegations of conniving with former Vice-President Joice Mujuru to topple Mugabe, while Mutasa was expelled a fortnight ago for publicly denouncing the party’s congress, describing it as a legal nullity.
Mutasa was not in the House when the announcement was made, but Mliswa who was present, left in a huff as soon as Mudenda started reading out his verdict.
“I was informed by Zanu PF that both Mutasa and Mliswa have ceased to be members of Zanu PF and, therefore, no longer representing the interests of the party and Parliament in terms of Section 129 (1) (k) of the Constitution,” Mudenda said.
The section reads: “If a member has ceased to belong to a 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, the seat of the member becomes vacant.”
Mudenda notified the House that he had received a letter from Mutasa in which he indicated that his expulsion from Zanu PF was not warranted as due process was not followed in terms of internal party democracy.
“This raises the issue of the expulsion of the MP from the party, for which I have no mandate to pursue because notification of the Speaker by the party is all that is required at law to create a vacancy and for the Speaker to declare the seat vacant,” he said.
“Provisions of the Constitution are unambiguous regarding declaration of a vacancy. Therefore, a vacancy has arisen in Headlands and Hurungwe West by operation of the law and necessary administrative measures will be taken to notify the President, and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission of the existence of the vacancies in line with Section 39 (1) of the Electoral Act 2013 as amended.”
However, legal experts yesterday accused Mudenda of double standards in the Mutasa and Mliswa case.
The lawyers cited an identical case last year where Mudenda declined to concede to MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s request for the expulsion of the party’s “rebel MPs” who had crossed floors to form MDC Renewal Team.
“In any case,” Mudenda said then, “neither the Honourable President of the Senate nor the Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly has any authority and role to play in the internal disciplinary actions, disputes or differences within political parties, which matters may be appropriately dealt with by a competent court.”
The lawyers said Mudenda could have made the latest decision to placate Zanu PF which appointed him to the post.
In their joint court challenge, Mutasa and Gumbo are adamant the Zanu PF December elective congress, which saw the summary dismissal of party officials linked to Mujuru, was illegal and, as such, incapable of producing genuine leaders who could sit to determine their status in Zanu PF.
In his founding affidavit, Mutasa accuses Zanu PF of breaching his and Mujuru’s rights by making unfounded allegations against them and convicting them without giving them an opportunity to defend themselves.
“The Constitution of Zimbabwe respects the right to human dignity in terms of section 51 of the same. The manner in which allegations were made against myself and Vice-President Mujuru, allegations that included malicious and defamatory contentions, clearly infringed our right to human dignity,” Mutasa said.
Mutasa further said the manner in which votes of no confidence were passed against perceived Mujuru allies, and the manner in which some party members were barred from participating at the congress and the “lawlessness of the congress”, resulted in a clear breach of his and others’ right to equal protection of the law as guaranteed by Section 56 (1) of the Constitution.
He also said both the Zanu PF congress and politburo had no locus standi (legal basis) to expel anyone from the party without due process.
Mutasa added: “The state of siege, intimidation, hate speech and unlawful media campaign unleashed against the so-called Mujuru camp resulted in a totally unfree, unfair and illegitimate congress and pre-congress processes.”
Meanwhile, Mudenda also dismissed a request by MDC-T chief whip Innocent Gonese to bar Zanu PF MPs who benefited from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s farm mechanisation schemes from voting to pass the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (Debt Assumption) Bill.
He also ruled that journalists can use electronic gadgets in the House as long as they did not disrupt proceedings.