Tuesday's shock ruling by the Bulawayo High Court left the MDC party crying foul as it played straight into Zanu PF’s hands, which analysts said was the biggest beneficiary of the confusion in the MDC party.
Respected University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, told the Daily News yesterday that Nelson Chamisa’s MDC party had been dealt a body blow by the ruling, adding that Zanu PF would capitalise on the confusion in the country’s largest opposition party.
Masunungure said the squabbling between Chamisa and Thokozani Khupe — who is also claiming the party’s leadership — over the party’s symbols will confuse the electorate at the forthcoming polls, suggesting the only way for the barrister to end the charade would be to rebrand the MDC.
“It will confuse the electorate, whether it’s Chamisa or Khupe, but a big blow for Chamisa who has most to lose if the matter goes beyond election day,” opined Masunungure.
“Khupe may benefit from that confusion because she does not have the numbers and the situation may also benefit Zanu PF. It is in the best interest of Chamisa to find a solution because these matters might drag on for months, especially if it is in the interest of the ruling party.”
Masunungure opined yesterday that if Chamisa wants to end the confusion perpetuated by Tuesday’s court ruling, he should consider rebranding the party, formed in 1999.
He said it would not be the first time this has happened, citing two examples.
In 1980, he said, former president Robert Mugabe rebranded the revolutionary party to Zanu PF after falling out with Ndabaningi Sithole in the penultimate stages of the guerrilla war.
In 2006, the MDC was also rebranded after its founding father Morgan Tsvangirai lost a legal battle despite having won hearts and minds in the court of public opinion.
“Chamisa may want to consider rebranding the party because he is the one with most to lose,” said Masunungure.
On Tuesday, Chamisa lost an urgent chamber application filed by his party this month in which the MDC had sought to ban their erstwhile former deputy president from using the party’s symbols.
Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Francis Bere ruled that the matter was not urgent, and that the dispute was better resolved through arbitration.
In the aftermath of Tsvangirai’s death on February 14, Khupe, Chamisa and MDC vice president Elias Mudzuri had all claimed the party’s presidency.
Before Tsvangirai’s body could be flown home for burial from South Africa where the maverick opposition leader had lost the battle against colon cancer, the MDC National Council hastily convened a meeting where Chamisa was elected interim leader.
In days that followed, he was elected substantive MDC president.
Thereafter, attempts were made to narrow differences between Chamisa and Khupe, with the latter remaining adamant that she was the legitimate MDC leader.
Peeved by her intransigence, a decision was made to dismiss Khupe and her allies from the MDC, followed by their recall from Parliament.
Khupe is contesting her recall from the National Assembly and attempts by Chamisa to cut her loose from the MDC.
In the wake of Bere’s ruling, there is a possibility that ballot papers could have names of the two MDC formations, which could have grievous consequences for the opposition.
Political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya said the MDC should have understood that taking political conflicts to the courts was tantamount to referring them to the Zanu PF politburo to make a decision.
Ruhanya said the dispute over MDC control was a political rather than a legal matter and the courts of public opinion should make a decision not the High Court.
“…remember after the coup, it is the same High Court that said the coup was constitutional, such a court cannot be trusted, even in burial societies they don’t accept coups,” he said.
Ruhanya said the ruling was hollow as it will change nothing.
“It will change nothing, the High Court said nothing interesting, there is nothing substantive apart from seducing shareholders of this confusion and the suggestion is that Zanu PF is a shareholder in the MDC fights.
“But one important thing that the MDC should understand is that in competitive authoritarian regimes like Zimbabwe the Judiciary, the media, the Legislature and the electoral field are serious areas of political contestation and manipulation so the MDC must take the Judiciary in an authoritarian state not as an arena for the rule of law but a key area of manipulation so that the interests of the incumbent are safeguarded,” said Ruhanya.
Yesterday, Chamisa’s party threw tantrums at the ruling party, claiming there was a ploy involving arms of the State to freeze the party’s bank accounts and impound its vehicles in order to ensure a Zanu PF victory.
Soon after the High Court ruling, MDC treasurer-general Charlton Hwende tweeted that the judgment was politically-motivated and meant to negatively influence the party’s performance in the forthcoming elections.
Hwende revealed in the tweet that an accountant from the Justice ministry was fired last week for releasing the party’s share of a government grant they were entitled to in terms of the Political Parties Finance Act and that they were attempts to freeze the MDC’s account with one of the country’s top commercial banks.
“Yesterday’s court ruling is part of a plan by the State to destroy the MDC. Last week, an accountant from (the) Justice ministry who released our share of the government grant to our account was fired. They tried to freeze our CBZ account and failed,” he said.
“They have now resorted to funding Khupe and her group to destabilise our party. They are claiming our name, they will claim our vision, they will claim our icon Dr Morgan Tsvangirai and they will even claim our president Nelson Chamisa but they will never succeed because our supporters will vote them out in July. Let’s remain resolute — let them claim the name, logos or our colours but your vote is the ultimate decider,” added Hwende.
Luke Tamborinyoka, Chamisa’s spokesperson, echoed Hwende’s sentiments yesterday, describing Bere’s ruling as “politically motivated”.
He said: “Khupe and her cabal remain expelled from the party; we believe this is a political judgment; it’s contestable and appealable, but the court of public opinion is very clear. There is an outpouring of support for the MDC led by Nelson Chamisa”.
The MDC has also raised concern over the presence of soldiers in villagers — with Chamisa last week pleading with the military top brass to pull back the uniformed forces into the barracks.
The newly-elected MDC Khupe vice president Obert Gutu said as far as they were concerned, they have moved on and will win any legal battle.
“Legally, we have always been in an extremely good space. Without bragging, the fact of the matter is that we have assembled some of Zimbabwe’s finest legal minds and these are the people who are advising us. We are not taking any prisoners. Indeed, we are on a roll. Every step that we take is carefully and meticulously planned and executed. Politically as well, we are a huge force to reckon with. We are poised to shock the nation by winning the elections. Just watch the space,” said Gutu.
At its congress — where Khupe was elected the substantive president of the MDC — the party decided to remove Tsvangirai’s face from the open palm and replaced it with a picture of a child.