SENIOR STAFF WRITER
©️ THINGS are moving from bad to worse for Nelson Chamisa and his top MDC allies, after more party MPs defied his decree to withdraw their services from Parliament yesterday, the Daily News reports.
This comes as political analysts have warned that the charismatic politician’s directive was a “bad” and “irrational” call, which was already backfiring spectacularly — contributing significantly to the threat facing his political career.
After several legislators had earlier ignored Chamisa’s directive to withdraw from Parliament in solidarity with four legislators who were recently recalled from the august House, more lawmakers were in the National Assembly yesterday, as the pressure mounts on the former MDC leader.
MPs David Tekeshe, Joice Makonya and Virginia Mafuta attended the parliamentary portfolio committee on Agriculture which is chaired by Zanu PF legislator for Gokwe Nembudziya, Justice Mayor Wadyajena.
This was after their colleagues Peter Moyo and Winnie Kankuni similarly attended the parliamentary portfolio committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare earlier this week.
“I am happy that we have three MDC MPs who have attended this committee despite reports of intimidation and threats on their lives.
“Some of them, who have failed to attend, have apologised. We thank you guys,” Wadyajena said at the start of his committee’s meeting.
The MPs later told the Daily News that it would be a “travesty of justice not to attend Parliament” when their constituencies expected the legislators to represent them in the august House.
Tekeshe added that he had been “directed by people” in his constituency to attend parliamentary business after he consulted them.
“I do not believe I am defying the party directive, but that I am doing what the constituency has directed me to do.
“During this time of Covid-19, the people in my constituency need me the most, and if I don’t come to these platforms they will miss out on many things.
“People think that politics is about hatred and enmity, but I think we need to unite,” Tekeshe said defiantly.
“I am not bothered if anyone recalls me because I am an established businessperson. I did not join politics to become MP, but for the people,” he told the Daily News.
Pressed to say if he still recognised Chamisa as his leader, Tekeshe said the time was “not yet ripe” for him to declare his allegiances.
“We will cross that bridge when we get to it. All I can say is that in a democracy we have the right to make choices, and I made the choice to come to Parliament today,” he said.
On her part, Mafuta said she had decided to defy Chamisa’s directive after having allegedly suffered abuse at the hands of fellow MPs in the party, who were accusing her of backing reinstated party secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora.
“I was removed from the party’s WhatsApp group by Lilian Timveos (who is among the MPs who have been recalled), who accused me of being Mwonzora’s person.
“When I begged for re-admission to the group, I was told to wait. I only got re-admission for a short time before I was removed again.
“From that point I realised that there was a bigger hand behind all this. So at the moment, I am standing by the court judgment. That is my position,” Mafuta told the Daily News.
Southerton MP Moyo has also questioned why Chamisa wanted them to withdraw from Parliament for the sake of the four recalled MPs when he had failed to do the same after he lost the 2018 presidential election.
“For the record, I voted for Chamisa and I will vote for him again. But let us not use emotions here.
“The bigger question is why did we not boycott Parliament when we said the presidential elections were rigged?
“Why should we now disengage from Parliament … simply because four MPs have been recalled from Parliament?” Moyo said.
“The issue is that we are disputing the decision by the party to tell us to disengage before they consult.
“If they are saying MPs should disengage, everyone else should disengage. A war is not fought in bits and pieces.
“I couldn’t miss the committee meeting because that meeting was crucial, especially during this time of Covid-19 when people in our constituencies are hungry.“We have people we lead who we should consult first. Let us not put emotions everywhere,” Moyo further told the Daily News.
Chamisa and his lieutenants have appeared to be in disarray ever since the Supreme Court delivered its ruling on the party’s leadership ructions at the end of March.
The country’s highest court upheld last year’s ruling by the High Court which said Chamisa’s ascendancy to the leadership of the MDC had violated the main opposition party’s constitution.
In the unanimous judgment that was handed down by Supreme Court judges Paddington Garwe, Bharat Patel and Antoinette Guvava, Chamisa’s elevation to the MDC’s presidency was thus declared unconstitutional, and null and void.
The ruling also automatically re-instated former MDC secretary-general Mwonzora and ex-chairperson Morgen Komichi — who both lost their positions at the party’s chaotic congress in Gweru last year — to their previous positions.
And in addition to installing Thokozani Khupe as interim party president, it also ordered her to convene an extraordinary MDC congress to elect a new leadership within three months.
Last week, the Khupe group successfully recalled Chalton Hwende (Kuwadzana), Tabitha Khumalo (MDC proportional representative), Prosper Mutseyami (Dangamvura) and Midlands senator Lillian Timveos, from Parliament, as it flexed its muscles and demonstrated that it is fully in charge of the beleaguered party for now.
Meanwhile, political analysts said yesterday that Chamisa was not likely to succeed with his decree that attempted to force MPs to withdraw from Parliament.
University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, described the directive as “irrational” — adding that it could lead to questions being asked about his leadership qualities.
“The decision (to ask MPs to withdraw from Parliament) will undermine his credibility as a leader because he put the MPs in an invidious position, where they have to make a difficult choice … given our political economy where many of the MPs are not formally employed outside politics.
“The party should have considered the status of the MPs, and also consulted them first before issuing the decree. Chamisa put the cart before the horse,” he told the Daily News.
International Crisis Group senior consultant for southern Africa, Piers Pigou, said the current imbroglio in the MDC was “predictable”.
“The politics of survival and opportunism abound, but more than anything, this current situation reflects an opposition movement unwilling and seemingly incapable to reconcile.
“Accusations of doing Zanu PF’s bidding are repeatedly … made against detractors within the opposition. Certainly, the ruling party appears to be the primary beneficiary of all this,” he said.
Another political analyst, Admire Mare, said Chamisa could not do anything to stop the MPs from defying his directive given the poverty that was gripping the majority of them.
“Whether there was consultation or not, this was bound to happen because of bread and butter issues.
“Furthermore, most of these people have accrued a lot of debts, including car loans from Parliament, which cannot be repaid outside the MPs’ ticket,” he said.
The MDC has a total of 107 legislators who got top-of-the-range vehicles, including Toyota Hiluxes worth between US$40 000 and US$60 000 .
Under their parliamentary privilege, they are supposed to pay for them through a stop order for a period of five years.
Besides their average monthly salary of between $6 000 and $8 000, the MPs are entitled to $700 sitting allowances per session, fuel coupons and lucrative foreign trips on parliamentary business.
The government emphasised last weekend that it would withdraw all their benefits if they withdrew from Parliament.
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