THE opposition MDC Alliance yesterday came under siege with Parliament announcing the recall of four leaders from the Nelson Chamisa-led party, claiming that they were, in fact, members of the Thokozani Khupe-led MDC-T.
By Veneranda Langa/Blessed Mhlanga/Desmond Chingarande
To add to the confusion, MDC-T secretary-general Nixon Nyikadzino, who last week claimed to have fired Khupe as the opposition leader, also wrote to Parliament recalling MDC-T MP Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (proportional representation) and senator Mildred Reason Dube.
The recalls came after Chamisa told NewsDay that he was in charge of the MDC Alliance which he described as a separate entity from the parties that were recently before the Supreme Court.
MDC Alliance chairperson Tabitha Khumalo (proportional representation legislator), secretary-general
Chalton Hwende (Kuwadzana East), chief whip Prosper Mutseyami (Chikanga-Dangamvura MP) and Midlands senator Lillian Timveous, the leader of the opposition party in the Senate, were given marching orders from the House by Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda yesterday.
The four came into Parliament on an MDC Alliance ticket in the 2018 elections, but Mudenda and Senate president Mabel Chinomona claimed they were members of the MDC-T.
In announcing the recall, Mudenda said the MDC-T wrote to Parliament on April 3, 2020 citing section 129(1)(k) of the Constitution.
The section stipulates that an MP can be recalled from Parliament when he/she ceases to belong to the party that seconded him/her and that party writes to the Speaker of Parliament to recall the member.
“Pursuant to the above, I, therefore, inform the House that vacancies have arisen by operation of the law and the necessary administrative measures will be taken to inform the President and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec),” Mudenda said.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi immediately adjourned Parliament to prevent interjections from MDC Alliance MPs.
The Supreme Court last month ruled that Chamisa’s leadership of the main opposition party was illegitimate because the process that made him acting party president after founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai died in February 2018 was illegal and, therefore, null and void.
The court, however, also noted that the ruling could be academic, after Chamisa’s MDC Alliance held a congress in 2019 which elected him unopposed, while Khupe’s MDC-T held its own in 2018. Khupe’s MDC-T also contested the 2018 election as a separate entity and has two proportional representatives, an MP and a senator.
Chamisa, who narrowly lost the 2018 presidential election to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, accused his rival of rigging the vote and does not recognize his presidency.
He also refused to join Mnangagwa’s dialogue to resolve the country’s economic crisis. Yesterday, he accused Zanu PF of using the courts to force him to accept Mnangagwa’s legitimacy as President.
Soon after their recall from Parliament, Hwende and Mutseyami later told journalists that their party would issue a comprehensive statement on the matter.
“We are going to inform our president (Chamisa) who was not in the chamber and the party leadership of the decision made,” Hwende said.
“However, we did not participate in elections under MDC-T. We participated under the MDC Alliance and it is shocking that some people are now giving us a party we do not belong to. We actually competed with the MDC T.”
Timveous said she was unfazed by the announcement, adding it was exposing Zanu PF’s fear of the MDC Alliance.
Political analyst and lawyer Alex Magaisa said the recalls were a strategic attack on the MDC Alliance leadership in Parliament and stems from leadership fights in the MDC Alliance 2019 congress.
“Mwonzora and Hwende have had a long-standing battle which culminated in the battle for the secretary-generalship at the MDC Alliance congress in 2019 in which Hwende prevailed. This part of the recall seems like a continuation of a personal war marked by a streak of vindictiveness,” he wrote on his personal blog.
He noted that the recalled MPs represented the MDC Alliance at the elections in 2018 and that there was another party called the MDC-T, which was led by Khupe.
“The MDC Alliance was accepted as a distinct political party by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. The courts, including the Constitutional Court, have recognised the existence of this party. Politically, the call by the government for the party to join the Political Actors Dialogue POLAD process confirms the official recognition of its existence. It has always been held out to be and accepted as a political party in Parliament and all its proceedings.”
In a related matter, Nyikadzino recalled Misihairabwi-Mushonga and senator for Bulawayo province Dube from Parliament and Senate respectively.
In a letter addressed to Mudenda and Chinomona, Nyikadzino said he was exercising his mandate as MDC-T secretary-general.
“As secretary-general of MDC-T, the one that contested elections in July 2018, I hereby formally notify you as the Speaker of Parliament that under the powers vested in me, I am recalling Hon Priscilla Misihairabwi Mushonga from representing the MDC-T as the proportional representative member of Parliament under our party list of Bulawayo province,” Nyikadzino said in the letter.
Nyikadzino said the party would formally notify Zec of the replacements for Misihairabwi Mushonga and Dube after a consultative process.
Last week, Nyikadzino wrote to Parliament claiming to have taken over the MDC-T and that Khupe fired herself from the party when she joined “a new party established by the Supreme Court”.
He claimed he was the bona fide secretary-general elected at congress in 2018 and Douglas Mwonzora, whom he accused of abandoning the MDC-T, remained unwanted in the opposition party, a position also taken by another MDC-T official, Tarisai Chikuvanganga last month.
Chamisa yesterday publicly reacted to the Supreme Court judgment in an interview with Heart & Soul television and radio, an Alpha Media Holdings digital platform.
“The Supreme Court decision will be addressed at the appropriate time,” Chamisa said. “It has nothing to do with the MDC Alliance. The MDC Alliance is a legal persona, a separate entity.”
Chamisa said the party that he led had been acknowledged as a legal entity before the courts of Zimbabwe, Parliament as well as Zec, had representation in Parliament and councils and should not be confused with the MDC-T.
Analysts said Chamisa would have to raise constitutional issues with the Constitutional Court to appeal the latest threat to his leadership of the opposition party.