©️ THERE was a mixture of anger and dejection within the leadership ranks of the MDC yesterday, after the Supreme Court upheld a 2019 High Court ruling which confirmed Thokozani Khupe as the legitimate interim leader of the party, the Daily News reports.
In arriving at this decision, the Supreme Court immediately stripped Nelson Chamisa of the leadership of the country’s main opposition party, saying he had risen to power illegally.
MDC insiders told the Daily News soon after the court’s ruling that this was “a devastating blow” for Chamisa — one which could have far-reaching implications for the political career of the MDC Alliance leader and the party.
“Whether one agrees or disagrees with the courts’ decision that is a discussion for another day. The fact is that this is a huge blow, even taking into account that courts cannot ultimately decide the leadership of political parties.
“This is potentially a devastating blow for Chamisa and our party going forward, as this means that he (Chamisa) will immediately lose control of the party’s assets and machinery.
“He (Chamisa) and his allies will also be out of Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House (formerly Harvest House) as from today — which all has serious implications on him and the party going towards the fast approaching 2023,” a dejected senior party official said told the Daily News.
Yesterday’s surprise ruling — which came amid the country’s 21-day total coronavirus lockdown — follows Chamisa’s highly contested February 2018 ascendancy to the leadership of the main opposition party, after its much-loved founder Morgan Tsvangirai succumbed to colon cancer.
The Supreme Court ruling also comes at a most inopportune time, when the MDC is engulfed in ugly factional and tribal wars, as the party’s leadership struggles continue to simmer.
In the judgment handed down by Supreme Court judges Paddington Garwe, Bharat Patel and Antoinette Guvava, Chamisa’s elevation to the MDC’s presidency was declared unconstitutional.
This thus paves the way for former number two to Tsvangirai, Khupe, to act as the MDC’s interim leader — while preparing for an extraordinary congress that will choose a new party leader.
Khupe’s ecstatic lawyer, Lovemore Madhuku, said triumphantly yesterday that his client was now the acting president of the party.
“Thokozani Khupe has won. She is now the acting president of the MDC. The court ruled that it was recognising the structures that were in place before February 15, 2018.
“The structure places Khupe as the acting president, Morgen Komichi as the national chairperson and Douglas Mwonzora as the secretary general.
“In terms of the court order, Khupe was given three months to hold an extra-ordinary congress,” Madhuku told the Daily News.
“If Khupe does not want to call for the extraordinary congress, Komichi will have to call for the extraordinary congress. This puts to rest the leadership tussle,” he added.
Meanwhile, the ructions which have been tearing the MDC apart over the past few months came to the fore yesterday, as senior party leaders gave conflicting statements.
Komichi, whose position has been re-instated by the ruling, said the party accepted the court’s verdict, while calling for the setting aside of officials and mayors who were suspended by Chamisa.
“All members of staff whose contracts of employment were unlawfully terminated last year are hereby reinstated and must report for duty as soon as is practicably possible, given the circumstances.
“All our party deployees to council and Parliament are advised that they have no need to fear, as there will be no reprisal or retribution from the leadership.
“This is on the strict understanding that they will discharge their obligations towards the party and not embark on any activities calculated to divide the party,” Komichi said.
“The current leadership are kindly asked to hand over the assets of the party to the secretary general. All financial records should be handed over to the treasurer general of the party,” he added.
However, MDC vice president Tendai Biti said the ruling was inconsequential.
“We are MDC Alliance. We contested the July 2018 elections as the MDC Alliance which was an alliance of seven political parties and whose president and leader was Nelson Chamisa.
“The MDC Alliance … held its congress in Gweru … At that congress Chamisa was unanimously elected as the president and undisputed leader of the MDC Alliance,” he said.
Biti also said himself, Welshman Ncube and Lynette Karenyi-Kore have been elected as vice presidents at that congress.
“The MDC Alliance was not party to the court proceedings whose judgment was handed down today (yesterday) … we have nothing to do with it and, therefore, we are going to have our congress in 2024 in terms of our constitution.
“We have members of Parliament … mayors … councillors, elected on the ticket of the MDC Alliance,” he said.
Last year, the High Court ruled that Chamisa’s ascendancy to the MDC presidency was unconstitutional.
The ruling followed a court application by MDC member Elias Mashavira, who challenged Chamisa’s ascendancy to the party’s leadership, which he said had happened in violation of its constitution.
In her ruling then, Justice Edith Mushore also nullified Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri’s appointments as MDC vice presidents by Tsvangirai.
“All appointments and/or reassignments and all actions of the second respondent in his purported capacities as deputy/acting or incumbent president (Chamisa) were unconstitutional and therefore null and void.
“The first respondent (MDC) be and is hereby ordered to hold an extra-ordinary congress after the elapse of at least one month after the date of this order.
“The respondents are ordered to pay the applicants costs of suit, jointly and severally, the one paying the other to be absolved,” Mushore said in her ruling which was later appealed to the Supreme Court by Chamisa and the MDC.
“Applicant (Mashavira) has established that he has a real and substantial interest in the remedy of a declaratur.
“Applicant has also demonstrated that the appointment of the second and third respondents in 2016 and the appointment of the second respondent to be the leader of the party were ultra vires the Constitution and void ab initio.
“Any subsequent actions which were taken (and which hereinafter could be taken) by the second and third respondents whilst holding themselves out to be deputy, acting president and president are consequently void ab initio,” Mushore said further in her ruling.
When Tsvangirai died, a vicious power struggle erupted in the party which saw Chamisa assuming the reins of the country’s main opposition party ahead of his rivals — albeit, under controversial circumstances.
Chamisa was accused of having allegedly used under-handed methods to torpedo the ambitions of Mudzuri and Khupe.
A titanic leadership battle subsequently ensued, which eventually led to Khupe forming a breakaway faction — which went on to perform dismally in the 2018 elections.
Chamisa ultimately prevailed over his party competitors after a consultative meeting of the MDC which was held at its Harare headquarters — and which was attended by 639 delegates from 210 party districts — endorsed him as Tsvangirai’s interim successor and the party’s presidential candidate in the 2018 polls.
Responding to the court ruling on Twitter, Chamisa showed that he was clearly unhappy with yesterday’s ruling.
“DICTATORSHIP NEVER WINS. DICTATORSHIP ALWAYS ULTIMATELY FALLS AND SO SHALL IT BE WITH ALL THOSE WHO CONNIVE WITH IT! THE PEOPLE ALWAYS WIN AND THE PEOPLE SHALL GOVERN! BIGGER AFTER IT ALL. CORRECTNESS NEVER COMES SECOND BEST!” he wrote in loud capital letters.
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