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'Biti must not be expelled from Parliament'

by Staff reporter
19 Mar 2021 at 09:31hrs | Views
Zanu-PF is determined to establish a one-party state similar to the Chinese model, former People's Democratic Party (PDP) secretary-general Gorden Moyo said on Thursday.

Moyo spoke a day after a faction of the PDP, which he quit after the 2018 elections, said it had recalled six lawmakers from parliament, including the former finance minister Tendai Biti.

The latest recalls add to the more than 30 lawmakers from the Nelson Chamisa-led MDC Alliance who have been expelled from parliament based on a contentious Supreme Court ruling from March last year.

Moyo said the decimation of the MDC Alliance in parliament was an indication that "Zanu-PF is pursuing a Beijing model" where the Communist Party leads a de facto one-party state with eight other legally-permitted subordinate minor parties which in reality have no autonomy of their own.

"Biti and his PDP should not and must not have been expelled from parliament by anybody," Moyo told ZimLive. "The desperation of Zanu-PF to lobotomise opposition in parliament is beyond comprehension."

Biti, a finance minister during the 2009-2013 unity government, is one of Chamisa's deputies and an outspoken lawmaker who chaired parliament's public accounts committee, which has criticised the government's handling of finances.

The basis of the expulsions is a Supreme Court judgement which said that the MDC Alliance, which contested the 2018 elections, is not a single political party but made up of various political parties, which formations could recall lawmakers drawn from their membership.

Biti was leading the PDP when he announced he was joining a coalition with the late MDC-T led by Morgan Tsvangirai in August 2017. Ironically, the PDP through Moyo, announced that it had expelled Biti and other top officials including Kucaca Phulu, Jacob Mafume, Willas Madzimure, Settlement Chikwinya and Vince Musewe.

Two months later, in October 2017, the other PDP faction which had now installed Lucia Matibenga as its leader formed the National Rainbow Coalition after joining hands with Joice Mujuru's People First.

The two coalitions participated in the July 2018 elections, but only the MDC Alliance won seats in parliament and local authorities.

But in a dramatic turn of events, the Matibenga PDP recently resurrected to demand seats won by the MDC Alliance.

Said Moyo: "In a normal country, with a normal judiciary and a normal parliament, Tendai Biti would be considered the bona fide president of the PDP that signed the MDC Alliance agreement in August 2017.

"The PDP faction led by Matibenga signed an electoral pact with other parties that formed the National Rainbow Coalition on October 27, 2017. The two factions of the PDP therefore went into the 2018 elections belonging to two different electoral coalitions.

"Biti, Madzimure, Phulu and Chikwinya are the best opposition MPs in parliament. Just check the Hansard for the issues they raise in parliament. Their removal marks the death of serious debate in the 9th parliament of Zimbabwe."

The MDC Alliance, which is the country's main opposition, has also watched as a faction of the MDC-T recalls its elected officials, based on the contentious court ruling.

The Supreme Court declared in March 2020 that Chamisa, 43, was not the legitimate leader of the MDC-T party which signed the electoral pact with several other parties to form the Alliance. The court said this was because Chamisa's appointment and that of Elias Mudzuri as Tsvangirai's deputies in 2016 was a breach of the MDC-T constitution which only provided for an elected deputy leader. The deputy leader elected at the last congress, in 2014, was Thokozani Khupe, the court ruled, and it was she that should have taken over on an interim basis when Tsvangirai died.

The Supreme Court judges conceded that the judgement was probably now "water under the bridge." The reason was because Khupe had insisted that she was the legitimate leader of the MDC-T and gone on to contest the 2018 election as leader of the MDC-T, coming a distant third in the presidential race and securing just two seats in parliament through proportional representation, while the MDC Alliance had over 100 seats.

Khupe used the court ruling to appropriate MDC Alliance lawmakers who are former members of the MDC-T, and those who refused to accept her leadership were recalled.

Seats won through proportional representation in both the Senate and National Assembly were filled by Khupe loyalists before her eventual defeat by Douglas Mwonzora during a leadership contest at the MDC-T congress held in December last year.

Constitutional lawyer Professor Welshman Ncube, who is one of Chamisa's deputies, said the latest recalls by the PDP were particularly common-sense defying.

"I never thought I would live long enough to witness the absurdity of a political party contesting parliamentary elections under the umbrella of some coalition and winning zero seats, but somehow thereafter miraculously being said to have six MPs and then recalling all of them," Prof Ncube tweeted on Wednesday.

Zimbabwe's electoral laws state that if an MP quits their party or is expelled they lose their seat. That should trigger a by-election but Zimbabwe has suspended all elections in the last year, citing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chamisa and the MDC say his rivals are working with the ruling Zanu-PF party to weaken him as punishment for refusing to recognise President Emmerson Mnangagwa's disputed election in 2018.

"This rogue regime is employing all tactics including repressive ‘patriotism' laws, dismembering parliament and arbitrary arrests to crush dissent," Fadzayi Mahere, the spokesperson for Chamisa's MDC said.

"The malicious intent behind Biti's recall from parliament is plain for all to see. Mnangagwa wants to create a one-party state, consolidate authoritarianism and loot the country with impunity. The citizens must converge for change."

Prince Dubeko Sibanda, a former MP for Binga North who was recalled by the MDC-T said Zanu-PF had captured the judiciary and parliament, closing the path for legitimate political contestation.

"Now the illegitimisation of the three arms of the state is complete. All the legitimate channels of democratic engagement are closed. We're going to engage them in the villages, townships and the streets. That's where we'll meet with them," Sibanda wrote on Twitter, hinting at mass action to confront Zanu-PF.

Source - zimlive