Court reserves judgment in MDC-T symbols case Mr Chamisa

Bulawayo Bureau
The judgment in the case pitting two MDC-T rival camps fighting over the ownership of the party name and symbols has been set for Tuesday next week.

The bitter wrangle involves a group led by the opposition party’s controversially appointed president Mr Nelson Chamisa and his rival Dr Thokozani Khupe, who was purportedly expelled from the opposition party last month.

Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Francis Bere, who presided over the matter, heard arguments on the preliminary points raised by both parties.

He indicated that he wanted to first check the various case law authorities that were cited by the two lawyers before making a ruling.

Mr Chamisa’s camp, through its lawyers Atherstone & Cook Legal Practitioners, filed an urgent chamber application citing Dr Khupe together with her two allies – Mr Abednigo Bhebhe (former MDC-T organising secretary) and Mr Obert Gutu (ex-national spokesperson) – as respondents.

The Mr Chamisa-led MDC-T last month fired Dr Khupe, Mr Bhebhe and Mr Gutu for insubordination and intransigence.

MDC-T has become increasingly fractious, particularly following the death of its founding president Mr Morgan Tsvangirai on February 14 this year.

In his founding affidavit, MDC-T acting chairperson Mr Morgen Komichi said the respondents were infringing on their registered trademark in pursuit of their political agenda by continuing to unlawfully exploit party symbols and signs despite their expulsion.

Mr Komichi said Dr Khupe and her allies were causing confusion and misleading MDC-T followers by continuing to use party trademark, symbols and signs.

Mr Chamisa’s camp, through its lawyer Advocate Lucas Nkomo, is seeking an order interdicting the respondents from “unlawfully exploiting and abusing its registered MDC-T trademark, symbols and signs”.

Adv Nkomo said the matter will depend on the judge’s ruling on preliminary points.

“If the preliminary points are upheld, it will then depend on what order the judge will make,” he said.

“On the other hand, if the preliminary points are dismissed, the lawyers will then proceed to argue the matter on the merits about whether there is infringements of the registered trademarks of the MDC-T by Dr Thokozani Khupe and her group or not.”

Adv Nkomo argued that his clients were the owners of the trademark, which the respondents are unlawfully exploiting, including the open palms slogan.

He said the respondents have now started creating their own political structures in the name of the applicant, including making use of the party’s registered trademark and their derivative marks, symbols and colours.

Adv Nkomo said Dr Khupe is portraying herself as the leader of the MDC-T and the party’s presidential candidate in the forthcoming harmonised elections.

Dr Khupe’s camp, through its lawyer Professor Lovemore Madhuku, insist that she is the acting president of the MDC-T.

Prof Madhuku said they wanted the application to be dismissed, arguing that it was not properly before the court.

“We are actually seeking to have the urgent chamber application dismissed on the basis of the points that we raised, the first point being that who is MDC-T?” he said.

“In fact, our clients are also MDC-T, hence, you cannot say the party has sued Dr Khupe.

“The other point is that the matter was not urgent and there is no irreparable harm that would be suffered by the applicant because the electoral process will solve its problems.

“There are also technical points about the trademarks and if the judge agrees with us, that would be the end of the matter and in other words, it would have been dismissed.

“However, if he doesn’t agree with us, then we will get to argue on whether or not the applicant has a case against respondents.”

According to Prof Madhuku, Dr Khupe became acting president of MDC-T by operation of law in terms of Article 9.21.1 of the party constitution when Mr Tsvangirai died.

She also accuses Mr Chamisa of imposing himself and seeking to consolidate his “coup d’état” efforts by refusing to follow the dictates of the party constitution.

Any possible confusion arising from the use of party names and symbols, she said, will be resolved in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.

Mr Gutu and Mr Bhebhe, in their affidavits, agreed with Dr Khupe, saying she is the rightful, lawful, legitimate and constitutional acting president of the MDC-T until such a time that an extraordinary congress is held to elect a new substantive president of the party.

Although Mr Chamisa was recently elected to lead MDC-T by the party’s national council, which is regarded as the opposition party’s supreme body in between congresses, Dr Khupe and her allies have openly refused to recognise him as the party’s presidential candidate, insisting that constitutionally, she was the party leader until congress elects Tsvangirai’s successor.

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