OBEY MANAYITI/KENNETH NYANGANI
LAWYERS for the opposition MDC spent the better part of yesterday studying High Court Judge Justice Edith Mushore’s ruling nullifying Nelson Chamisa’s leadership of the party in order to give advice on how the opposition could respond to it.
Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume confirmed that the party’s national standing committee had forwarded the judgment to its lawyers, who will give expert advice on how the party should respond.
Although the MDC on Wednesday said it would go ahead with its scheduled congress to be held in Gweru between May 24 and 26, Mafume revealed party lawyers were combing through the 22-page judgment to come up with an informed position on the way forward.
The judgment also nullified the way the youthful leader and his then co-vice president Elias Mudzuri were catapulted by the late founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai to be his deputies in 2016.
It also compelled the party to hold an extra-ordinary congress within a month.
“The standing committee has referred the judgment to the lawyers and they are still waiting for the lawyers’ opinion,” Mafume said, but insisted nothing had changed from the party’s statement released on Wednesday that it would go ahead with the scheduled congress.
Well-placed sources have, however, revealed that the judgment has thrown the cat among the pigeons and the party leadership was now in sixes and sevens over the matter.
NewsDay is informed that the party was now sharpening swords against Mudzuri and secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, accusing them of having a hand in the court application that generated the infamous ruling.
Mudzuri and Mwonzora had planned to challenge Chamisa, but failed to secure nomination for the post.
NewsDay is reliably informed that during Wednesday’s standing committee meeting, there were insinuations to nail the pair, a situation that would likely seal their political careers, but both leaders denied any association with the applicant, Elias Mashavira, the party official who made the application.
Mudzuri yesterday refused to comment on the issue, claiming he had been ordered by his doctors to stop commenting on political issues.
“I am under the doctor’s orders not to talk about politics or things that might disturb me,” he said.
But Mwonzora described the allegations as malicious.
“The allegations are false and extremely malicious,” he said.
“First of all, the allegations were filed in September well before I knew I was going to contest or not.
“Secondly, I don’t understand why those making allegations against me are understating the capacity of the applicant who was our organising secretary for Gokwe.
“Thirdly, I am actually listed as the fifth respondent in that matter meaning I was also sued. It is clear that there are people who always want somebody to blame and they want to use me as a scapegoat. However, I am not going to be their punching bag any more.”
Mwonzora said on March 4 last year, he shared his opinion with the party leadership regarding the possible way forward. He, however, refused to share the opinion that he provided.
“It has gone too far, I am not going to be a punching bag any more,” he fumed over the allegations that he was the brains behind the application.
NewsDay has nonetheless been informed that former Constitutional Affairs minister Eric Matinenga reportedly advised the party leadership to go for an extra-ordinary congress last year to avoid some bottlenecks, but Chamisa purportedly spurned the advice.
It is said at the height of power struggles following the death of founding leader Tsvangirai, the party sought independent opinion from Matinenga, but were ignored.
The power struggles were between Chamisa, Mudzuri and Thokozani Khupe, who were the other vice-presidents.
In his affidavit, Matinenga said the party constitution was clear that the vice-president was supposed to take over and under the circumstances, Khupe, as the elected vice-president, was supposed to take over.
He urged the party to go for an extra-ordinary congress.
“The advice set out above appears to set the stage for a bruising fight between the constitutionalist, Dr Khupe and the majoritarian, Advocate Chamisa,” he said.
“It is important that Dr Khupe, Engineer Mudzuri and Advocate Chamisa find each other. None is indispensable. Any suggestion that any of the three is dispensable is politically naïve.
Such a naïve political stance will set opposition politics and multi-party-ism backwards.
“The error being made here is to choose either constitutionality or majoritarianism. In this particular case, the two are not mutually exclusive. An extra-ordinary congress will merge two positions. It will answer both the constitutionality and majoritarian arguments. It will provide, once and for all, the legitimacy to whoever is elected.
“The contestations for power must be exercised within the parameters of the constitution.”
In his affidavit, Matinenga said the argument that was used then, that the party had no money, does not hold any water because the extra-ordinary congress had just one item on the agenda and will not take a lot of time and resources to conduct.
Khupe’s party yesterday described the judgment as “victory not only vindicates Dr Khupe, and those in the MDC that have always stood for principle over political expediency, but it’s a victory for all democratic forces and the rule of law in our country”.
But Chamisa’s deputy, Morgen Komichi, accused Zanu PF of meddling in opposition politics to try to influence the choice of its leader because they are afraid of facing Chamisa in an election.
He was speaking to NewsDay on the sidelines of a campaign rally in Mutasa on Wednesday.
Komichi said that the ruling was a plot by Zanu PF to embarrass Chamisa and vowed the party would go ahead with its congress.
National youth leader Happymore Chidziva said leadership and legitimacy came from the people, not the courts claiming that the courts were biased in their judgments.
He described the ruling as some form of judicial interference in internal political party matters.
Although many lawyers canvassed by NewsDay refused to give their views on record, the majority expressed shock over the judgment.