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MDC: Uphold rule of law, constitutionalism

by Staff reporter
10 May 2020 at 07:24hrs | Views
THE March Supreme Court ruling nullifying Mr Nelson Chamisa's leadership of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and ordering the party to hold an extraordinary congress within three months has not only thrown the cat among pigeons, but is a damning indictment on the party's failure to adhere to key democratic tenets, the rule of law and constitutionalism.

For a party which touts itself as a paragon of virtue and champion of democracy, its reaction to the ruling betrays double standards and flawed democratic credentials.

It also exposes the extent to which some of its leaders are willing to bend the truth and misinterpret the law to suit their agenda.

Justice Bharat Patel's ruling is clear and answers two major questions concerning the party's leadership.

The ruling upholds a High Court decision that the appointment of two vice presidents by the late MDC president Mr Morgan Tsvangirai in 2016 and Mr Chamisa's subsequent rise to power in 2018 were illegal.

This means the party must now revert to pre-2016 appointments, leaving Dr Thokozani Khupe as acting president of the party pending congress.

Mr Tsvangirai's ill-advised decision to appoint Messrs Elias Mudzuri and Chamisa co-vice presidents alongside Dr Khupe who was elected at congress in 2014 has come back to haunt the party in a big way.

His failure to resolve the succession issue until his death on February 14, 2018 spawned a nasty and bloody succession battle with Mr Chamisa emerging as leader in controversial circumstances.

The youthful lawyer's rise to the apex of the MDC was through a combination of violence, cohesion and skulduggery and for all his grandstanding and posturing as a popular choice, he avoided subjecting himself to an extraordinary congress, an issue the Supreme Court cited in arriving at a verdict.

Now that the flawed process leading up to Mr Chamisa's seizure of power has been exposed by the courts of the land, legal gurus in MDC have been lining up to question the ruling and have even branded it academic and technical — the underlying import being that it is unenforceable. How ironic.

There have also been arguments that the judgment conflates two political parties — the MDC-T and MDC-Alliance and that Justice Patel's ruling only applies to the MDC-T led by Dr Khupe.

However, we find this line of thinking fundamentally flawed in that it fails to acknowledge that the MDC-Alliance was not a political party, but a grouping of seven parties constituted in terms of an alliance agreement — the Composite Political Cooperation Agreement.

This coalition was formed specifically to contest the 2018 harmonised elections as a block.

Parties that entered into this "non-compete agreement" were MDC-T, MDC-N, MCD led by Mr Mathias Guchutu, Transform Zimbabwe led by Mr Jacob Ngarivhume, Zimbabwe People First fronted by Mr Agrippa Mutambara and Zanu Ndonga led by Denford Musiyarira.

In terms of Clause 2.0 of the pact, the "parties agreed that the Alliance partners shall remain and operate as independent parties save for those aspects specifically provided for in this agreement".

This clearly shows that the alliance was never designed to be a political party, but a loose non-body corporate entity different from the parties that constituted it.

Its MPs and other office bearers answer and belong to their respective political formations.

The May 2019 MDC-Alliance congress held in Gweru was convened using the MDC-T constitution.

If indeed the Gweru congress was an MDC-Alliance affair, it should have been an inaugural congress but it is known as the fifth congress, meaning it was a follow-up to the fourth MDC-T congress of 2014.

There is, therefore, technically, no party called MDC-Alliance and the judgment of the Supreme Court is correct in nullifying the leadership structures of the MDC-T post 2014 because these were constituted illegally.

Dr Khupe and her team which comprises secretary-general Mr Douglas Mwonzora and chairperson Mr Morgen Komichi are within their rights to begin preparations for an extraordinary congress as they are the legally constituted office bearers of MDC-T.

Their decision to recall four Members of Parliament last week is an internal matter for their party and Parliament is duty-bound to act on their request according to the laws of the land.

This is because the legislators were seconded to the alliance by MDC-T, which has since exercised its prerogative to recall them from the August House.

The Speaker of Parliament and President are also legally required to declare their seats vacant and proclaim by-elections in their respective constituencies.

While we hold no brief for any of the feuding parties within MDC-T, we find it puzzling that the faction of the party led by Mr Chamisa is willing to use violence to hold onto power.

There are reports that party youths are being sponsored to hold vigils at Harvest House where they have threatened to assault anyone intending to take over the building.

This is unfortunate and regrettable.

We also find the decision by the faction's standing committee to "suspend" participation of the party's legislators in Parliament quite retrogressive and selfish in that it seeks to suck MPs into a conundrum which is not of their own making.

They would be foolish to heed their leaders' edict.

In the meantime, we call on all parties to respect the laws of the land, particularly the Supreme Court judgment delivered by Justice Patel.

If they have any grievances, they should appeal to the courts.

Source - sundaymail