LAWYERS, political analysts and opposition party leaders yesterday described the swearing in of opposition MDC-T leader Thokozani Khupe and her 14 party nominees as replacements for the recalled MDC Alliance MPs as “a sad day for democracy” as the process was allowed to proceed despite a pending court challenge.
BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE/ VENERANDA LANGA
Khupe was sworn in as MP together with 14 of her acolytes and she immediately assumed the position of leader of the opposition in the House.
The swearing in came after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) confirmed the list of nominees submitted by Khupe’s party to replace the 15 recalled MDC Alliance proportional representation MPs “as provided for in section 39(7)(a) of the Electoral Act”.
Parliament went ahead and swore in the MDC-T nominees as substantive MPs despite objections to the nominations and a High Court application filed by a Kwekwe resident, Charles Madhiwa, seeking an interdict order.
Human rights lawyer Alec Muchadehama, who has represented the MDC Alliance on several occasions, said it boggled the mind why Parliament rushed to swear in Khupe and her team when there was a pending court challenge.
“Faced with the urgent chamber application to block the swearing in of Khupe and her team, Parliament had to respect the judicial processes and stop the process until the application is finalised by courts,” he said.
“Arms of the State have a reciprocal duty to respect each other. There was no need to hurry the swearing in when it was challenged.”
He said it was also in the interest of transparency that Zec published the objections raised by citizens over the nomination of Khupe and her MDC-T team.
“These institutions are complicit, Zec, Parliament, MDC-T and Zanu PF. They know what they are doing. What happened yesterday can only happen in Zimbabwe, and not in any other country. There is no way a person who voted for this person can be told that he voted for this other one and Zec and Parliament accepted,” Muchadehama said.
“This is a serious assault on democracy going forward. No one’s vote is safe. Replacements must be taken as it happened in the 2018 general elections.”
Lawyer and policy analyst Tinashe Mundawarara said the swearing in ceremony was “sad” and a “flagrant abuse of section 67 of the Constitution and section 39 of the Electoral Act”.
“It is a blatant dislocation of representative democracy as the 15 MDC-T members were never part of the MDC Alliance universitas personarium (totality of people) as they contested as MDC-T party with full recognition as such from Zec,” he said.
“Therefore, General Notice 2553 of 2020 is a ‘Lazarus Prescription’ to raise Thokozani Khupe from the political graveyard through malfeasance as they have now been imposed on the same people that rejected them. Thousands of objections submitted under the Electoral Act section 39(6) have been ignored for political expediency.”
Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said the swearing in undermined democracy and showed how State institutions had been politicised to serve the interests of Zanu PF.
“It is a sad day for democracy in Zimbabwe as both Zec and Parliament have shown voters the middle finger by appointing someone and her cohorts who lost elections dismally. Khupe and her friends cannot represent people who rejected them,” he said.
“This is not a small matter when institutions disregard the democratic tenet that political leaders come from the people and not some politicised and managed legal systems. This undermining of democracy means Zimbabwe cements its position as a rogue authoritarian State.”
He added: “It shows how our State institutions are politicised and how courts are only respected as long as they are serving the interests of Zanu PF. Zec has undermined its independence and damaged its credibility by participating in this charade.”
National Patriotic Front spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire said yesterday’s events were a continuation of the November 2017 military coup that ushered in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s rule.
“What we are seeing now is the creation of a pliant opposition through a template from China to consolidate the power they unconstitutionally usurped through a coup,” Mawarire said.
“We have a rogue military regime which doesn’t respect constitutionalism, rule of law or electoral democracy. Sadly, the regime is supported by dictators in China, Russia and Belarus.”
Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume said the swearing in was an assault to democracy and Zanu PF would continue to have a ride in the park as long as Zimbabweans do not act.
Ngarivhume, who recently spent 45 days in remand prison for urging citizens to protest against corruption and the deteriorating situation in the country, said democracy had been virtually killed by Mnangagwa, working with Khupe.
“Until Zimbabweans express themselves in a big way, the situation will become worse. Parliament should not have sworn Khupe in when there was a court challenge. Rule of law and democracy is dead in the water,” Ngarivhume said.
Khupe, yesterday after being sworn in, declared herself the new leader of the opposition in Parliament.
“I am a senior member of the MDC-T and so since I am a senior member, it means that I am the leader of the opposition in Parliament. All those MPs that are in Parliament are MDC-T MPs, not MDC Alliance MPs,” she claimed.
“We want Zimbabwe to work again, we want Zimbabweans to get running water, we want hospitals to work.”
Besides Khupe, other new MPs sworn in are January Sawuke, Sipho Mokone, Lindani Moyo, Memory Munochinzwa, and Yvonne Winfielda Musarurwa.
In the Senate, one of the nominated senators, Thabani Moyo, did not turn up for swearing in.
Those sworn in were Khaliphani Phugeni, Getrude Moyo, Piniel Denga, Nomalanga Khumalo, Teti Chisorochengwe and Chief Ndlovu.
MDC Alliance vice-chairperson Job Sikhala described Khupe’s comeback to Parliament as part of Mnangagwa’s sideshows to distract people’s attention from the real problems bedevilling the country.
“I do not want to participate in sideshows that Mnangagwa is trying to compel us to be part and parcel of,” he said.
MDC-T spokesperson Phugeni rubbished Madhiwa’s court application as “child’s play” which should not be taken seriously.
“I will not waste time talking about it,” he said.