There are fears that this week’s High Court ruling which nullified Nelson Chamisa’s presidency of the MDC, exacerbated by the party’s escalating infighting, could completely destroy Zimbabwe’s main opposition.
Lawyers for the opposition MDC spent the better part of yesterday studying High Court Judge Justice Edith Mushore’s ruling nullifying Nelson Chamisa’s leadership of the party in order to give advice on how the opposition could respond to it.
The judgement has drawn a lot of attention and raised many questions among members of the public.
The case was brought in September 2018 by a member of the MDC who was effectively challenging the legality of the leadership of current MDC President, Nelson Chamisa. In doing so, the applicant challenged the appointment in 2016 of Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri as additional deputies to the then leader, Morgan Tsvangirai.
The MDC immediately said it would appeal against the ruling and that it would press on with a planned leadership congress this month where it is expected to elect Chamisa as a permanent successor to founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who died in February 2018.
Chamisa, 41, rose to become the MDC interim leader last year amid opposition from internal rivals, which split the party into two factions. He lost a presidential election to the ruling ZANU-PF’s Emmerson Mnangagwa, but says that poll was rigged.
High Court Judge Edith Mushore ruled that the process that took Chamisa to the helm of the MDC was unconstitutional and therefore null and void. The ruling followed a legal challenge from a party member to Chamisa’s leadership.
But the MDC said the ruling was part of a wider plot by Mnangagwa’s ruling party to destabilise the main opposition.
“We fundamentally disagree with the judgement. We reiterate that Emmerson Mnangagwa is illegitimate and no amount of diversionary tactics will change this fact,” MDC spokesman Jacob Mafume told reporters.
Chamisa has already been nominated for the presidency of the MDC by all the party’s provincial assemblies and will be endorsed during a congress from May 24-26 in Gweru town, central Zimbabwe.
In February this year, Chamisa and his MDC snubbed talks with Mnangagwa meant to try to resolve a political and economic crisis, saying any dialogue with the president must be brokered by an independent outside mediator.
Commenting on the judgement, Tsvangiai’s former advisor, Alex. Magaisa, said, “The judgment is clearly a strike upon the legitimacy of Chamisa as leader of the opposition. Ironically this is the principal argument that Chamisa has advanced against his arch-rival Emmerson Mnangagwa, namely that his presidency of Zimbabwe lacks legitimacy. Politically, the judgment hurls the same weapon at Chamisa. It creates an equivalence between the two main political adversaries, each of whom will now wield the illegitimacy card against the other.
“However, while the immediate focus is on legitimacy, the effect on the impending MDC Congress and the impact on elected MPs and Councillors, the most fundamental effect is that the judgment represents an existential threat upon the country’s main opposition, which has so far refused to budge to ruling party demands. It is a strategic and insidious assault on the very existence of the MDC led by Chamisa.