THE army’s involvement in the takeover of the MDC Alliance headquarters by a rival faction has been described by lawyers as unconstitutional and a dangerous precedent.
Soldiers and armed police two weeks ago helped the Thokozani Khupe faction of the MDC to seize the Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House, a building in central Harare that has housed the country’s main opposition party for years.
Senior MDC leaders, including vice-presidents Tendai Biti and Lynette Karenyi-Kore, were arrested on Friday after they tried to access the building.
The army’s involvement drew criticism from western countries and the European Union, who said it showed that there was no rule of law in Zimbabwe.
The Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) also weighed in, saying the soldiers had crossed the line.
“We are particularly concerned by reports that the army and the police were deployed to evict some members of the MDC party who were in occupation of the Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House,” the LSZ said.
“The role of the army is clearly articulated in section 212 of the constitution, which provides that the function of the Defence Forces is to protect Zimbabwe, its people, its interests and its territorial integrity and to uphold the constitution.”
The lawyers said the uniformed forces should respect the rule of law, which was about “equality, fairness and strict observance of due process”.
“In this vein, we call upon the security forces to desist from wading into civil disputes and restrict themselves to their constitutional mandate,” the LSZ added.
“It is apparent that the actions taken, if the reports are anything to go by, were not backed by an order of the court.
“No person is above the law and nobody should be assisted in taking the law into their hands.”
Former South African opposition Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane took aim at President Emmerson Mnangagwa for allegedly persecuting the MDC Alliance.
“Mr Mnangagwa, give the opposition building back,” Maimane said on Twitter.
“This level of intimidation and suppression has gone on for long.
“While the world is seeking justice for George Floyd, you are busy choking democracy in Sadc.”
MDC-T acting national chairman Morgen Komichi told journalists in Harare yesterday that the army got involved because they feared MDC Alliance youths would turn violent.
“Young people, who had come with [MDC Alliance secretary-general Charlton] Hwende, were too many and, therefore, violating the Covid-19 rules and regulations and you know the police and the army are working together on Covid-19 issues,” Komichi claimed.
“The presence of the army was simply to deal with Covid-19 issues.
“They were not there to assist in the takeover of our property and you must also know that the young people, who had come there had petrol bombs.
“Their intention was to burn down the building and it was actually going to be a serious risk of burning down many other buildings and there was need for intervention to save the city from burning down.”
MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora claimed they intercepted messages by MDC Alliance officials mobilising people to gather at the party headquarters.
“There were messages circulating for all councillors to bring at least 30 people to Harvest House and that would have meant more than 700 people in one place in disregard of the law and the messages were intercepted,” Mwonzora said.
“We have since secured a peace order with the magistrates court and in this peace order, they are not allowed to come to the MRT House or interfere with our party headquarters.
“We have always been there since its formation.
“The army was never invited to Harvest House and they never took part in the taking over of our property, but there were army officers in the vicinity and these army officers had been in the vicinity in Harare for over a month.”
He said a standing committee meeting would be held at the party headquarters on Tuesday.
Posters of Chamisa were removed from the party headquarters and replaced with those of the late founding MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Elias Mudzuri claimed the MDC Alliance had been captured by former Zanu PF members under the G40 banner and had lost direction by allowing “latecomers like Fadzayi Mahere to take over influential posts at the expense of the founders”.
— The Standard