Embattled opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa has rekindled his fight against rival MDC-T leader Thokozani Khupe saying she no longer had legal grounds to claim leadership of the main opposition party after failing to hold an extra-ordinary congress by July 31 as ordered by the Supreme Court early this year.
The court, in a moot ruling though, had on March 30 recognised Khupe as interim party president and ordered her to hold an extraordinary congress on or by July 31 to resolve the opposition’s contested leadership following the death of founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai in February 2018.
MDC Alliance secretary for presidential affairs, Jameson Timba yesterday said after missing the July 31 deadline set by the Supreme Court, Khupe and her acolytes no longer had the locus standi to go around posing as legitimate leaders of the MDC-T and to recall Chamisa’s MPs from Parliament.
But Khupe’s allies insisted she was still in charge although the Supreme Court last Thursday struck down her urgent application for extension of the deadline, saying the relief sought was not urgent.
“They purported to come back as leaders of the MDC-T on the strength of the Supreme Court ruling which allowed Khupe to be acting president for four months, which lapsed on July 31 midnight. They had even lost their posts in line with the MDC constitution, which gives them the power to remain in office for five years. So having been elected in 2014, their offices expired in 2019,” Timba said.
“The urgent court application by the Thokozani Khupe group to have their extra-ordinary congress dates moved to end of November was not deemed a chamber application by Supreme Court judge Justice (Antonia) Guvava, but accepted as an ordinary court application to be heard before three Supreme Court judges in an open court. The case as per the timelines given by the court is likely to be heard any day after the 20th of August,” Timba said.
“In essence, what it means is that as of midnight of July 31, 2020, Thokozani Khupe ceased to be the acting president of the court-resurrected MDC-T 2014 structures. The same fate also befell Douglas Mwonzora and (Morgen) Komichi, who are now just ordinary members of the defunct party as it were and cannot purport to act on its behalf.”
But Khupe yesterday insisted she was still in charge by operation of the MDC-T constitution, while other party activists said acting secretary-general Mwonzora had taken over the leadership after being nominated by structures in Harare province.
“There is no such thing. No urgent application was dismissed and Dr Khupe is the acting president by operation of the constitution and the Supreme Court acknowledged that,” MDC-T acting deputy spokesperson Khalipani Phugeni said.
“The judgment did not expire, what didn’t happen is only the extra-ordinary congress. Everything else about that judgment is still in place. It didn’t expire, maybe until somebody goes to court and seeks a declaratory order to that effect, it did not expire. The extra-ordinary congress that did not happen, we are before the court now requesting for a variation of that judgment,” he said.
Fungai Chiposi, a member of the MDC-T information department and strong ally of Mwonzora, said his boss was now the legitimate leader of the party, while quoting an unnamed lawyer.
“A legal expert in Harare said that Mwonzora was already the MDC-T president. He is the only person who was nominated for the post of president by July 31. Therefore, he has been nominated unopposed and duly elected,” Chiposi tweeted.
The leadership fight between Khupe and Chamisa started way back in 2016 when Tsvangirai handpicked Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri as co-vice-presidents without going to congress.
Khupe, who had been elected the party’s sole vice-president, eventually fell out with Tsvangirai over the matter, leading to her ouster shortly after the former Prime Minister’s death, but she retained the party name and symbols.
In the July 2018 presidential election, Khupe contested as MDC-T candidate, while Chamisa ran under the MDC Alliance banner, but retained the MDC-T offices and symbols as well.
In March this year, the Supreme Court added a new twist to the wrangle after recognising Khupe as a legitimate acting party leader and ordering her to organise an extraordinary congress to resolve the wrangle once and for all.
Chamisa, who refused to recognise the court ruling saying he was no longer associated with the MDCT, was taken aback after Khupe went on a warpath in June recalling his MPs from Parliament and seizing control of the party headquarters with the help of security forces.
Timba yesterday said since Khupe had failed to abide by the Supreme Court ruling, the MDC Alliance was now at liberty to challenge Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda, and Senate president Mabel Chinomona to reverse the recall of its legislators and councilors by Mwonzora.
“This also means that those institutions and individuals such as the Speaker, who were hiding behind a finger and purportedly relying on the Supreme Court judgment to politically decimate the MDC Alliance through unlawful recalls, can no longer do so without shame,” Timba said.