Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

What does the supreme court ruling against MDC tell us

05 Apr 2020 at 20:13hrs | Views
The opposition MDC with all its divisions and branches has been put on the limelight again. The task before the MDC is a very easy one. It is for the MDC to show that they are capable and able to practice the Democracy they always preach about. This is the moment where the Western world's rhetoric of safeguarding democracy is out on test. The Supreme Court of Zimbabwe delivered a judgment concerning a longstanding legal wrangle over the leadership of the MDC-T. The Supreme Court was to decide on two major questions The first major issue was whether appointments of deputy presidents made by the founding President of the MDC-T, Morgan Tsvangirai in 2016 were lawful. Then the second was concerning the legality of Nelson Chamisa's rise to the Acting Presidency of the MDC-T in February 2018. So in short what ever position Chamisa holds now can only be sustained by the legality of 2016 and indeed his ascendancy to the throne.

In summary the Supreme Court  maintained the decision of the High Court that there were illegalities in appointing the two Vice Presidents and in the way Chamisa rose to power. The court ruled that the MDC-T should revert to the pre-2016 appointments position, literally confirming that illegality can never be healed by lapse of time.  The court directed the MDC T to hold an Extraordinary Congress within 3 months from the date of the judgment. The court gave a latitude that the three months could be extended by another month on good cause. The decision has raised a lot of anxious moments and both parties and onlookers offered their own partisan interpretation of the judgement.

The ruling of the court exposed the way MDC has been run from Tsvangirai all the way through to Nelson Chamisa. The irony of this whole issue is that the MDC was indicating left and it turned right. It was always and is still always miles away from democracy. The ruling exposed the shenanigans, plotting and counter plotting dirty play and outright tribalism which ruled supreme in the MDC.
Firstly it will be important to understand that Morgan Tsvangirai left a ticking bomb in his party and it's explosion was now out for all to see.

What we all appear to be missing is that this was not a Chamisa made problem. Morgan Tsvangirai appointed Engineer Mudzuri and Nelson Chamisa as his Vice Presidents unconstitutionally and he put his foot on the throat of any one who dared knock some sense in his head.  MDC with all its team of lawyers did not want to contradict the founding but dictatorial father Morgan Tsvangirai. When lawyers proffered an oppinion  and advice at the time that Khupe should challenge the appointments, Tsvangirai gave an explanation  that everyone knew that Khupe was the senior Vice President and that the appointment of the two was just a ceremonial appointment as  there was no provision for more than one Vice President. This cooled Khupe off a bit. The biggest mistake Khupe made was that she stopped attending meetings in protest. That gave Tsvangirai a chance to consolidate his plan. Tsvangirai's was a complete take over and personalising the party. That was the time when MDC was captured by its leader.  What we have today is a result of the MDC  fear of challenging their founder leaders.Morgan Tsvangirai created this problem. The MDC top brass knew that their constitution was breached and this was a problem planted only to be harvested later. This showed how despotic MDC is being ran to this date. Inorder to silence any descending voice the Vanguard was given powers you terrorise assault and silence any one who offered a challenge to this illegal undemocratic way of running a party.  Yet they all know that if the constitution had been followed at the time,Chamisa would not have won and even Khupe would have struggled in any Congress.

An opportunity to write the wrongs has just been presented inadvertently for the Alliance.This confirms that history will always find its way in the future. The past will always catch up with you. Failing to follow the constitution and vesting power in individuals is in itself a dangerous game, this is the biggest problem with African politics. Individuals are made to be bigger than their party and people. This is what MDC did creating dictators in the process.

Those who read Zimbabwean politics have always expected this Supreme Court ruling to come out as it did so the decision in itself was not a shock. The Supreme Court judgement gives finality to the judicial process.But this ruling did not finalise the political issues if at all it has multiplied them. The final say to this drama is in the hands of the opposition. The politics of the dominant opposition party must now play itself out to finality - this is inevitable!

There are no winners or losers in this case they all have themselves to bring the case to finality.
The respective next steps for both sides require a careful calculated move. It does not the immaturity of Biti or the excitement of Komichi. They have to take deep breath first - for reflection, wisdom, judgement before any serious actions or further pronouncements are made. The rushing to the press by Mwonzora and Komichi was the product of excitement.
Those who have direct and indirect personal political dividends out of the ruling and or out of the possible ways forward are encouraged to allow less conflicted minds to guide the leaders in the events unfolding. The death of opposition is the death of democracy.

There is a great chance of seeing another embarrassing episode of this very same crisis  if the parties fail to use their brains.
It should be noted that Khupe was not happy with the 2016 appointments. But because she feared to be fired by Tsvangirai so she did not mount a legal challenge.  Those who sympathised with Khupe sponsored one Patson Murimoga to challenge the appointments at the High Court. This attempt failed at the preliminary stage. There was a view that Murimoga was sponsored by Mwonzora and Gutu and other senior members of the party who did not dare to challenge Tsvangirai directly.  Tsvangirai had become a Demi god. After Murimoga's failed attempt, it was business as usual for the party; Tsvangirai ran the party with his trio of deputies, Khupe remained one of the Vice Presidents but she was being elbowed slowly. It was so clear that Khupe was no longer wanted in the MDC but she has to be kept in so that a women's quoter was satisfied and again MDC wanted a person from Matebeleland to hold the tribal distribution.

Unfortunately Tsvangirai's health took a nasty turn. In that period while the party was engrossed and occupied with Tsvangirai's health a takeover was in the oven being baked by Chamisa. Surprisingly Komichi played a big role in Chamisa's takeover.
Unfortunately in February 2018  Tsvangirai died leaving a void that needed to be filled and the real beginnings of this Supreme Court case started. There had been no clear succession plan. This created push and shove  dog-eat-dog scenario. Tsvangirai's death sparked a succession wrangle between the trio of deputies. In an audacious and dramatic turn of events, Chamisa emerged as the new leader of the party. The circumstances of Chamisa's ascendancy were controversial as Chamisa is. Chamisa was lucky because MDC was divided and Khupe could not cope. Khupe had the support of Mwonzora and some senior party members. But on looking on the ground they realised that Chamisa was popular with the voters. So the senior members sat on the fence and this weakened Khupe. As a result, there was no legal challenge. It was clear that the legalities notwithstanding, Chamisa was now in effective control of the party. Unhappy with the circumstances, Khupe left with a faction of the party. She was recalled by the party from Parliament because she was no longer a member of the MDC-T. Before Tsvangirai's death, she had long stopped attending meetings at the party headquarters and she surfaced at his funeral wake.

This then shows that Khupe was only recalled from Parliament but was never removed from being an MDC member. She still remained a Vice President.

Towards elections Chamisa entered into a pact with other parties. This saw the creation of the Alliance. This MDC- Alliance held its Congress and would not hold another one and that the leadership elected at Congress were not negotiable and would never be determined by courts of law but only by the members of the party. That was true on that day as it is true today. The only difference is MDC Alliance is not a party to the Supreme Court case.

Legally, the MDC Alliance was not before the court and cannot be bound by a judgement to which it is not a party and which in any event is not directed at it. Politically,  the people always decide. Period.

The  judgement was proper and very correct but whom does it bind.
It clearly states that Thokozani Khupe is the legitimate leader of the MDC T upon the demise of its founder Morgan Tsvangirai. There is no one disputing that ruling. MDC T is being led by Khupe and no one is challenging that narrative.
The Judge never ruled that Khupe is the leader of the MDC Alliance which we all know was formented unto existence by Advocate Chamisa who went on to register it for elections as MDC Alliance which they contested as.
So the two ,MDC T and MDC Alliance  are different entities and one who (Khupe in this case)  has a claim to ownership of the MDC T will not necesarily be able to have a claim of the MDC Alliance too.

On the issue of properties,that is not an issue at all because from my understanding, the MDC T and the MDC Alliance are very poor parties which do not have any substantial amount of property,the Harvest House currently housing Chamisa's MDC Alliance does not belong to either of them but is property being let to them by a well wisher who invariably has the right to decide who is to occupy it and whom it is understood has been allowing Chamisa occupation of the building since his ascendancy to power of the said party.
Courts can not implant and impose leaders upon subscribers to a party but it is party subscribers who impose leaders upon themselves,this puts the fact that this ruling is merely academic ,impractical and unbinding and hectic to implement into arena.

Unlike any other cases of ownership this case dwells on the voters. If they do not want Chamisa they will meet in the polls. We are yet to see how Khupe and Co are yet to frog march Chamisa's over two million supporters to offer her allegiance given the fact that in the just held general elections, she got  zero comma five  percent of the registerd electorate. The court ruling will not add or multiply her voters. Political parties thrive on goodwill. The question is does Khupe have that clout.
Chamisa may vacate  Harvest House to operate from the bush and Khupe takes over occupation but that will not necesarily result in Chamisa's supporters following her,over 70 percentum of Chamisa's supporters  do not even know the Harvest House but they only know Chamisa. So properties are not a factor on issues of political support base.

Khupe cannot also access the MDC Alliance's yearly allotment from the State under the Political Funds Act because it is only entitled to the MDC Alliance whose ticket upon which its MPs and Senators were elected unto parliament,so on that issue ,there is no complication.

At the moment there is nothing which can stop Khupe from holding an MDC T congress as was ordered by the court so as to elect MDC T president again and those willing to attend the conference are free to.  So we must remember Khupe went into elections heading MDC T. There was no one challenging her in her position.

The MDC-T had effectively split into two separate parties, one led by Chamisa and another by Khupe.
Meanwhile, in September 2018, one Elias Mashavira, described as a member of the MDC-T, launched legal proceedings in the High Court, challenging the legality of the appointments made by Morgan Tsvangirai in 2016 and Chamisa's ascendancy to the leadership. This was two months after the momentous elections when Chamisa was challenging Mnangagwa's legitimacy. The application was opposed on several grounds. The High Court issued a judgment in May 2019, holding that the 2016 appointments were illegal and everything that had happened thereafter, including Chamisa's ascendancy to the Acting Presidency, was unlawful. The court ordered the party to revert to its structures as they existed before the 2016 appointments. The party appealed the decision on several grounds. It is this appeal which was dismissed by the Supreme Court.

In short the ruling is reasonable and a good ruling.
Technically, it is difficult to fault the finding concerning the 2016 appointments. The fact that none of the disgruntled leaders mounted a challenge against Tsvangirai shows that MDC can never stand for principles. It can never stand for what is right. They can only praise and worship leaders at the expense of the truth. This speaks to their weaknesses and lack of courage concerning matters of principle. They can betray the will of the people. It is easy for them to betray the people for a person. MDC knew there was illegality and they participated in it, giving the impression that it had been corrected and endorsed by the party. This shows that the MDC has the capability to cover up for any mistakes and they can not be trusted with power.

MDC failed to comply with its constitution, so how can it comply with the national constitution.
The decision of the Supreme Court teaches us to stand up for the truth regardless of who is breaking it. Another lesson is the problem of not challenging leaders when they are wrong.

MDC created their own problems by eating an ice cream knowing very well as to who has prepared it.
The Supreme Court ruling placed the MDC on the stage its behaviour was exposed.
Chamisa is deriving his support from Biti and Job Sikhala. We can not forget that Biti was fired from MDC so was Job. The reasons of their firing has not been sorted. Chamisa had to take them back despite that his senior party members did not feel comfortable with the return of Biti.

Obert Gutu left MDC because of Biti yet Chamisa put his weight behind Biti. This arrogance has been a trend in the MDC. It is a party which has no relationship with reason.

While the judgement does not change much it simply gives Chamisa a chance to fire Mwonzora Komichi and all senior MDC members he had wished to get rid of all along.

The Supreme Court ruling simply becomes an opportunity to re arrange the party.

Of all the things which have been laid bare by this ruling Zimbabwe has been shown that MDC is not a Democratic Party. It is actually a power grabbing outfit which should be kept away from the state house. It remains to be seen if MDC is to respect the law and act democratically.
It actually needed a court to tell MDC that they have not followed their own constitution.


Source - Dr Masimba Mavaza
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.