BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
HIGH Court judge Justice David Mangota has struck off the roll a case in which the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) hoped to overturn former MDC vice-president Obert Gutu’s appointment as a commissioner at the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC).
ZimRights director Dzikamai Bere lodged a High Court application in July, arguing that Gutu had ceased to be a member of the NPRC by failing to surrender his Zanu PF membership within 30 days of his appointment to the NPRC.
The country’s laws stipulate that if a member of an independent commission who is a member of a political party fails to relinquish their membership within 30 days of appointment, they cease to be a member of the commission.
Bere had argued that the announcement that Gutu was a member of Zanu PF was made following his appearance at State House where he was welcomed to the party by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on March 17, 2021.
This was after Gutu resigned from the MDC-T as its vice-president.
Bere said Gutu was sworn into office as NPRC commissioner on May 7, 2021, which was also the date of his appointment.
“There has not been any contrary information to point to any change to his political inclinations; every political action the first respondent has made has always been by public announcement and in the public domain,” Bere argued.
However, Gutu denied that he had joined Zanu PF.
“The applicant is misinformed. Whereas, it was reported that I have joined the Zanu PF political party and I did an exclusive interview explaining my reasons thereof, which was an expression of interest and intention. In any case, such publication or communication is not how one is formally admitted into the political party’s membership, moreso membership which can be relinquished,” Gutu argued in his opposing papers.
He said a party member was given a membership card, of which he had not submitted a formal application nor paid any membership fee to Zanu PF.
“Upon my assumption of duty as a commissioner for the NPRC, I abandoned all plans to formally join the Zanu PF political party. As such, I never formally became a member of the Zanu PF party as defined by its constitution,” Gutu said.
NPRC acting chairperson Lilian Chigwedere submitted that “To the best of my knowledge, the first respondent was not yet formally a member of the Zanu PF political party, hence there can be no relinquishment of non-existent membership,” .
She added “Further, upon his assumption of duty, he advised that he had ceased all pursuits of becoming a member of the said political party. There is no basis for the remedy sought as the first respondent to the best of my knowledge, is in compliance with the said constitutional provisions.”
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