Fidelis Munyoro and Victor Maphosa
The High Court has ruled that the decision by the late MDC-T president Mr Morgan Tsvangirai to hand-pick two additional vice presidents was illegal and that the party should hold an extraordinary congress within a month using 2014 structures.
This follows an application by Gokwe district organising secretary Elias Mashavire challenging the 2016 decision by the late MDC-T leader who chose Mr Nelson Chamisa and Engineer Elias Mudzuri as his other deputies on top of Dr Thokozani Khupe, who had been voted in the congress of 2014 .
Mr Chamisa and Dr Khupe went their separate ways following the death of Mr Tsvangirai in February, last year.
At the time, Dr Khupe insisted she was the bona fide MDC-T leader because she was the only one elected party vice president at congress.
Yesterday, Justice Edith Mushore ruled that the appointments by Mr Tsvangirai of Mr Chamisa and Engineer Elias Mudzuri as party co-vice presidents three years ago was invalid.
Mr Chamisa and Eng Mudzuri were listed as second and third respondents in the matter.
“The appointment of second (Chamisa) and third (Mudzuri) respondents as deputy presidents of the MDC party were unconstitutional and therefore null and void,” said Justice Mushore.
“The appointment of the second respondent as acting president and president of the MDC party were unconstitutional and therefore null and void.”
In addition, the judge ruled that all the decisions made under the Nelson Chamisa administration are invalid and he cannot preside over party matters.
“All appointments and or reassignments and all actions of the second respondent in his purported capacities as deputy/acting or incumbent president were unconstitutional.
“The first respondent (MDC) be and is hereby ordered to hold an extra-ordinary congress after the lapse of at least one month after the date of this order.”
This means the party’s national council has to go back to the status quo and follow dictates of their constitution to deal with the upcoming congress.
It also means that Mr Chamisa cannot preside over the congress because he was an ordinary card-carrying member of the party before his surprise elevation.
In her ruling, Justice Mushore noted that the MDC considered democracy as a core value, to the extent that, its policies are to be determined by its membership and further its leadership “shall be accountable to the people as defined by this Constitution”.
In this case, the court found that the social democracy theme underpinned the entire MDC Constitution.
“Thus the imposition of deputy presidents as was the case in 2016 by the late president (Tsvangirai) and the delegation and imposition of a candidate by the national council and the imposition by the second respondent acting in concert with the purported council meeting of the 15th February 2018, to be appointed president are contradictory of the democratic intention behind the selection of leadership within the first respondent.”
“Those actions were acts of disenfranchisement, not only for the applicant, who was not invited to participate, but potentially the first respondent’s membership who have been deprived an election.”
“Succession by choice is not intra vires the first respondent’s constitution.”
Justice Mushore also took aim at Mr Chamisa and the party’s secretary-general Mr Douglas Mwonzora as lawyers saying they should have appreciated the unconstitutionality of all of the actions which led to the former and Eng Mudzuri to become deputy presidents.
It was also the court’s finding that Mr Mashavire proved that he had a real and substantial interest in the remedy of a declarateur. Mashavire also demonstrated that the appointment of the duo in 2016 and the subsequent appointment of Mr Chamisa to lead the party were in breach of the constitution and void ab initio (from the start).
But the party’s spokesperson Mr Jacob Mafume said during a prompt Press conference at the party offices in Harare, the party disagreed with the judgment. Mr Mafume bizarrely claimed that the Government was seeking to destabilise the opposition party.
“We have just been advised of the High Court of Zimbabwe judgment issued by Justice Edith Mushore today,” he said.
“We fundamentally disagree with the judgement, the choice of leaders of any political party, the world over is the sole preserve of the members of that party.
“We are fully aware of the machinations and strategies being deployed by the (President) Mnangagwa administration to destabilise and destroy the people’s project.”
Mr Mafume added: “For the avoidance of doubt, preparations for the main congress are at an advanced stage and 6 800 delegates will attend. That process is irreversible. In just a few weeks’ time, the MDC will complete the process of democratically electing its leadership at a congress convened in terms of its Constitution.”
Meanwhile, Zanu-PF national spokesperson Cde Simon Khaya Moyo yesterday scoffed at the MDC’s attempt to involve the ruling party in its internal affairs after the High Court nullified the appointment of Mr Chamisa and Eng Mudziri as party co-vice presidents and directing the party to hold an extraordinary congress a month after the date of the order.
“The court ruling by Justice Edith Mushore ordering the MDC party to hold an extraordinary congress within a month to elect a substantive leadership is purely an internal matter within the MDC,” he said.
“It has absolutely nothing to do with Zanu-PF and its visionary leader Cde ED Mnangagwa as insinuated by its spokesperson Mr Jacob Mafume. It is clear from the court proceedings that the applicant is an MDC member. Zanu-PF is too principled a party with a revolutionary history to engage in MDC shenanigans.
“President ED Mnangagwa is too pre-occupied with matters of the state economy as evidenced by the ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ mantra and vision 2030.”