Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
The MDC-T faction led by Mr Nelson Chamisa undermined the integrity of the courts and should be charged for contempt for ascribing wrong motives to a judge who presided over a case in which Mr Chamisa sought to stop his rival Dr Thokozani Khupe from using the party’s name and logo, legal experts said yesterday.
The Chamisa faction had approached the High Court seeking to interdict Dr Khupe from using the party’s symbols.
Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Francis Bere dismissed the urgent application for lack of merit and ruled that Mr Chamisa was a factional leader.
In a scathing attack on the court, Mr Chamisa’s national executive yesterday accused the judge of siding with a rival group.
“The national executive took note of the decision of the High Court. It noted with concern the creeping of politics into law and remained concerned that a whole respectable court can choose to relate itself to the issue of the so-called factions which was not even before it,” read part of the MDC-T statement.
“What was before the courts, the executive noted, was the issue of expelled party members who were abusing the party’s name, trademark, logo and symbols.”
Legal experts said the Chamisa-led MDC-T was offside.
Professor Lovemore Madhuku, who argued the matter for Dr Khupe, said it was regrettable the party’s national executive chose to be contemptuous of the courts when it had approached the court in the first place.
“It is unfair to attribute improper motives to a judge who clearly applied an impartial mind to the matter before him,” said Prof Madhuku.
“A litigant who initiates legal proceedings cannot, after losing, choose to undermine the dignity of our courts.”
Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) president Mr Misheck Hogwe said it was expected that the judges should be free to adjudicate over matters without fearing they would be accused of meddling in politics.
“The matter before the court was by any definition a political dispute,” he said.
“If the political parties believed that the court had jurisdiction to entertain the matter they ought to respect the ruling of the court. This is not to say the losing party necessarily has to agree with the ruling. Litigants should resist the temptation to be bad losers so that the integrity of our courts is maintained.”
Another legal expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the remarks by Mr Chamisa’s national executive were offside because it was his faction that approached the courts.
“It must be appreciated that the court ruled on a very simple matter, that the application was not urgent,” he said.
“It did not go into the merits of the matter, so the politics alluded to are a mere smokescreen to cover up for the fact that Chamisa miscalculated in bringing a misguided application to the High Court.”
The lawyer said Chamisa should simply agree with Dr Khupe to call for a special congress. “It is the failed politicians and pseudo lawyers surrounding Chamisa that are leading him astray.”
Mr Obert Gutu, deputy president of the MDC-T led by Dr Khupe, said the Chamisa faction’s statement was tantamount to contempt of court.
He said Justice Bere was an experienced and distinguished jurist of impeccable integrity.
“It is very unfortunate for some misguided and unscrupulous people to seek to malign and denigrate the integrity of the learned judge,” said Mr Gutu.
He said an attack on the independence of the judiciary went to the root of national stability and constitutional democracy.
Mr Chamisa’s faction wanted the High Court to stop former deputy president Dr Khupe from using the name MDC-T and its party logo.
This was after Mr Chamisa and Dr Khupe parted ways following the death of party leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai in February this year.
Mr Chamisa immediately seized power, a position challenged by Dr Khupe as unconstitutional.
Dr Khupe argues it is only congress that nominates the leadership of the MDC-T, not the national council as was the case with Mr Chamisa.
Dr Khupe insists she is the bona fide MDC-T leader because she was the only one elected party vice president at congress, while the other two — Mr Chamisa and Engineer Elias Mudzuri — were hand-picked by Mr Tsvangirai.
Her grouping held a congress last weekend and she was elected MDC-T leader.