Sunday, 31 May 2020

ATTEND PARLY OR FACE THE MUSIC : MWONZORA WARNS MPs


BUOYED by Friday’s High Court ruling which effectively killed the debate whether the MDC Alliance is a political party or not, the interim leadership of the country’s main opposition party is cranking up the heat on Nelson Chamisa, pictured, and his allies. 

The MDC’s reinstated secretary-general, Douglas Mwonzora, told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that all the party’s legislators were compelled to attend Parliament on Tuesday this week, or face the music.

This comes after the High Court rejected an application by the MDC Alliance to stop the MDC’s interim leadership led by Thokozani Khupe to stop the further recalling from Parliament of party legislators loyal to Chamisa.

This, in turn, followed a recent Supreme Court ruling that determined that Chamisa’s hotly-disputed ascendancy to the leadership of the MDC in 2018 violated the party’s constitution and was, therefore, null and void — paving the way for Khupe to take temporary charge of the party and to organise an extraordinary congress to elect a new leadership. 

With these two crucial court rulings in the bag, the party’s interim leadership is ramping up the pressure on their rivals — and is said to have drawn a list of up to 40 party MPs that are targeted for recall from Parliament should they continue to pay allegiance to Chamisa. 

Speaking in an interview with the Daily News on Sunday yesterday, Mwonzora said they were determined to enforce order in the party.

“We have advised MPs to attend Parliament. We are expecting to see everyone in Parliament on Tuesday now that the matter has been settled by the courts. 

“Some MPs had been lied to that the court was going to uphold the (Chamisa team) application. We expect the MPs in Parliament or they will face the consequences,” he said. 

This comes after the interim party leadership successfully recalled Chalton Hwende (Kuwadzana), Tabitha Khumalo (MDC proportional representative), Prosper Mutseyami (Dangamvura) and Midlands senator Lillian Timveos from Parliament recently. 

Mwonzora said although it was not the party’s intention to recall any MPs, their patience should not be tested.

“As I have said, it is not our intention to expel MPs. We don’t want to be vindictive. We don’t want to victimise MPs. But it is up to the MPs to act responsibly. 

“We know that MPs have been threatened and those who have attended Parliament have been told that their vehicles will be burnt. We are aware of that and we will treat those MPs differently because they are afraid of hooligans.

“This is the time of Covid-19 and Zimbabweans need their MPs to distribute aid and to lead the process of fighting the disease. This is not time for posturing,” Mwonzora said. 

Following the recall of the four MPs from Parliament, Chamisa and his allies instructed party legislators to disengage from the august House in protest. 

However, many lawmakers have declined to obey this directive and have been attending parliamentary business.

 The warring party has about 110 MPs in Parliament — with many of them undecided up to now as to which camp to side with, as they awaited the courts to decide on whether the MDC Alliance was a political party or not. 

Meanwhile, party insiders told the Daily News on Sunday yesterday that despite posting defiant messages on social media, many in the Chamisa camp had now resigned themselves to the “current political reality”.

“We wanted the courts to make a definitive ruling,  and now we know who to follow. It is clear that we now have to follow the ‘official party’ that is led by Khupe for now. There is no choice.

“I’m not alone on this and I know that there are many other MPs who are going to jump ship this week because we all have so much to lose,” a legislator who asked not to be named said. 

To compound the problems facing MDC MPs, the government reiterated at the weekend that it would withdraw the benefits of all legislators who disengage from Parliament.
 Most of the MDC legislators got top-of-the-range vehicles, including Toyota Hiluxes worth between US$40 000 and US$60 000.

Under their parliamentary privilege, they are supposed to pay for them through a stop order for a period of five years.

Besides their average monthly salary of between $6 000 and $8 000, the MPs are also entitled to $700 sitting allowances per session, fuel coupons and lucrative foreign trips on parliamentary business.

 In the Friday case, the High Court dismissed with costs an application where the MDC Alliance sought to stop the MDC’s interim leadership from recalling more legislators from Parliament, while also ruling that the Alliance was not a party. 

High Court judge Tawanda Chitapi ruled that the MDC Alliance was not a legal persona with the capacity to sue and be sued — and thus had no legal right to bring the application before the court.

“The first applicant (MDC-A) has failed to establish that it is a legal persona with the capacity to sue or be sued … Therefore, the finding of the invalidity in the application requires that the application is dismissed and not removed from the roll,” he said. 

Chitapi also said the MDC-A had failed to produce tangible evidence of a constitution or other legal instruments showing that it was a legal persona.

He said further that while the organisation was a political party as defined in the Electoral Act — which simply identifies a political party as a political organisation — the MDC-A did not have a legal instrument conferring it juristic status.

“You need to be a juristic person before you argue a case in a subject matter,” Chitapi said.
 He also said that from the evidence that was brought before the court, this had shown that the MDC-A was a grouping of political parties that formed a pact to participate in the 2018 elections as a single entity.

However, he added, the pact had a timeframe and was crafted to expire after five years from the date of people being elected into office, and did not have a constitution guiding its existence.
 Chitapi also said the MDC-A’s lawyers had failed to rebut submissions made by the MDC-T regarding the fact that the MDC-A was not a legal persona. 

Speaking to the Daily News on Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily News — after the High Court ruling on Friday — the professor of World Politics at the London School of Oriental and African Studies, Stephen Chan, said the court outcome would have damaging effects on the country’s main opposition and leave Zanu PF with no formidable challengers.

“Chamisa needs to now form the Alliance as a party. It was a mistake on his part to delay attempting this for so long. Having said that, the external reaction to his leadership or lack of it, has been negative. 
“This doesn’t mean that Western powers will side with his rivals. No one is impressing the outside world right now.

“So, the question is not just whether Chamisa is finished. The question is whether the MDC has a meaningful role right now that is understood by both Zimbabweans … and the outside world that was once sympathetic to the opposition — for the opposition is … opposing itself. This is a disaster,” Chan said. Daily News



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