Zimbabwe’s top court on Tuesday upheld the decision of a lower court that Nelson Chamisa was not the legitimate leader of the country’s largest opposition party.
Chamisa’s leadership was contested by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) party’s vice-president Thokozani Khupe who had claimed she was the legitimate leader to replace Morgan Tsvangirai after his death in February 2018.
The party split into two factions with Khupe leading the MDC-T and Chamisa leading the MDC-Alliance under whose banner he contested the 2018 presidential election, which he lost narrowly to incumbent president Emmerson Mnangagwa. Khupe performed dismally in 2018 elections.
Provincial party leader Elias Mashavira in 2018 challenged Chamisa’s appointment in court.
In a 2019 ruling, high court judge Edith Mushore declared Chamisa’s leadership “unconstitutional and therefore null and void.”
The MDC Alliance claimed at that time that the ruling was part of a big plot by President Mnangagwa’s governing ruling Zanu-PF party to destabilise it.
Tuesday’s Supreme Court ruling means that whoever was leading the MDC-T during Tsvangirai’s time, automatically returns to their positions.
Morgan Komichi, who now stands in line to reclaim his position of chair, welcomed the ruling, saying the highest court had laid to rest a “dispute that has long been affecting our party”.
Senior party official Douglas Mwonzora, who will return to his position as secretary-general, backed Komichi.
“There is no need to denigrate the courts any more, the courts have ruled,” Mwonzora said. “We are a party of rules, and we are a party of law.”
But Tendai Biti, a vice-president of MDC-Alliance dismissed the ruling saying the MDC had held a legitimate congress which elected Chamisa as president.
He argued the leadership dispute was brought before the courts by an ordinary member of the party and not by Khupe herself.