THE MDC-T leadership, under interim president Dr Thokozani Khupe, took possession of Harvest House in Harare on Thursday night, evicting MDC-Alliance which has been using the building.
Police were called in to stop MDC-A members and supporters from attempting to reoccupy the building or cause any damage.
MDC-T says it is now carrying out an audit to expose any theft or abuse of party properties.
The expected takeover of Harvest House by Dr Khupe’s camp, which includes the party secretary-general Mr Douglas Mwonzora and national chairperson Mr Morgen Komichi, on Thursday night is yet another blow for MDC-A leader Mr Nelson Chamisa who was this week formally expelled from the MDC-T and forced to let MPs attend Parliament to avoid a revolt from legislators who were facing the axe from the reinstated opposition leader.
The MDC-A and MDC-T have been in a legal dispute for some time, starting with Dr Khupe’s objection before the 2018 election that Mr Chamisa had become the MDC-T leader and hence the leader of the MDC-Alliance, which grouped a number of opposition parties.
Since then, Mr Chamisa has argued that the MDC-A is a political party that has succeeded the parties that went into the alliance, while Dr Khupe has argued that the MDC-T still exists.
In March, the Supreme Court ruled that under MDC-T rules, Mr Chamisa took the party leadership illegally in 2018 and pronounced Dr Khupe as the interim president pending an extraordinary congress.
After taking control of the MDC-T, Dr Khupe’s camp went on to recall four MPs who won their seats on the MDC-A ticket, but who were originally nominated by the MDC-T.
The High Court at the end of last month found that the MDC-A was not a legal entity,
instead being just an electoral pact by a group of political parties which retained their previous existence.
So with the legal position now clarified, the MDC-T flexed its muscle on Thursday night by taking over Harvest House.
MDC-T chairman Senator Komichi said yesterday: “Yes, I can confirm that we have finally occupied our headquarters, Richard Morgan Tsvangirai House (Harvest House). We are currently carrying out an audit of party assets such as vehicles, furniture, books of accounts and party offices in all the provinces and appropriate action will be taken at the appropriate time. The legitimate leadership of the MDC party has finally occupied their head office,” said Senator Komichi.
He said the occupation of Harvest House was a fulfilment of the Supreme Court ruling that stated that everything that was presided over by Mr Chamisa, since he illegally took over the reins of the party in 2018, was null and void.
He added that since Mr Chamisa had claimed to be the leader of the MDC Alliance he cannot lay claim to Harvest House whose ownership is enshrined in the party’s constitution to be the MDC-T.
Amid threats of violence from loyalists of the MDC-A, who allegedly threatened to burn down Harvest House and also to physically deal with senior members of the MDC, Mr Komichi said they then engaged the police for their security and also to protect party properties.
“Chamisa and his team mobilised hooligans to burn the building as a way of stopping us from occupying the party offices. They had mobilised people to make noise in town so we informed the police,” said Mr Komichi.
Yesterday police foiled an attempt by MDC-A leaders to reoccupy Harvest House.
Police spokesperson Paul Nyathi confirmed the arrest of the MDC-A leaders for violating the national lockdown.
“There was an influx of people in Harare central business district this afternoon (yesterday) in violation of Statutory Instruments related to Covid-19 with regards to health, security and safety of the public.
“In the same vein, Tendai Biti, Vongai Tome, Gladys Hlatshwayo, Louis Chimhini, Lynette Karenyi Kore and Lovemore Chonoputsa who were part of a group who had illegally gathered in the Harare central business district, were arrested for violating Covid-19 lockdown regulations,” said Assistant Commissioner Nyathi.
MDC-A secretary general Chalton Hwende confirmed yesterday that they had been removed from Harvest House.
“Yes I can confirm that MDC-T led by Dr Khupe is now in charge of Richard Morgan Tsvangirai House but they were assisted by the police,” he said.
Political analysts yesterday said the loss of Harvest House is another blow for Mr Chamisa who now finds himself with no control over a large block of MPs, those originally nominated by the MDC-T when the alliance was being formed, and also the MDC-T headquarters.
“The laws that apply to the ordinary folk are the same laws which affect even political entities hence this paradigm shift by some within the opposition serves the nation well.
“One would recall that the opposition together with the ruling party collectively appended signatures to the new law hence adherence to it as interpreted by the Judiciary serves to ensure that the rule of law is observed,” said political analyst Mr Collin Mharadzano.
Another political analyst, Mr Obert Gutu, who is a former spokesperson of the MDC, said the takeover of Harvest House by Dr Khupe was a sign of worse things to come for Mr Chamisa.
“That building symbolises the very DNA of the MDC and of course, taking over occupation of that iconic building sends out a huge political statement to all and sundry.
“Grandstanding is not and has never been an effective political strategy. They can make all the noise that they want on social media but the cold, hard fact is that the train has already left the station.
“It is what it is. If they don’t want to comply with the Supreme Court judgment, then they will have no other option but to form a new political party with a new name and new symbols. It’s only a matter of time before they are lawfully stopped from using the name MDC should they continue to defy the Supreme Court judgment. Time will tell.
“It will take time for people to believe Chamisa. How can an advocate of law fail to read the line and comply with the Supreme Court judgment,” said Mr Gutu.
Meanwhile, political analysts yesterday criticised the US Embassy in Harare for posting on Twitter a picture of police officers maintaining law and order around Harvest House in January this year, and claimed that security forces had been used in the takeover of the building by the Dr Khupe-led MDC-T.
Political analyst, Mr Takaedza Nyawanza said it was astonishing how the US continued to expose itself as handlers of the MDC-A.
“What is America’s interest in Zimbabwe? During lockdown, people were dying all over the world but America never issued a statement. Right now, America is burning, protests are taking place in all the States and US troops are on the streets and Zimbabwe has never questioned or interfered in their internal affairs.
“What’s so special about Zimbabwe? What is the motive of lying on Twitter using an old picture? Government issued lockdown rules and anyone found breaking those rules is supposed to be arrested despite his or her political affiliation,” said Mr Nyawanza.
The US Embassy was roundly criticised on Twitter for lying, with some Zimbabweans saying the US was the least qualified to talk about democracy considering that a Minneapolis police officer recently killed an unarmed black man, George Floyd.