HARARE – Zanu PF former Secretary for Administration Didymus Mutasa’s application to the High Court on Tuesday against Zanu PF puts Zimbabwe’s credentials as a constitutional democracy under the spotlight in SADC and AU.

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Mutasa finally after more than two months of threatening to have the Zanu PF 6th Congress declared null and void for failing to meet the party’s constitutional requirements. Despite desperate attempts from the party hawks to besmirch Mutasa and company in the public media, the expelled secretary of administration summed up the courage to have the matter dealt with by the courts.

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Mutasa in his application raises fundamental issues about the validity of the congress that brought a sea of change in the party by sweeping away more vice-president Joice Mujuru, spokesman Rugare Gumbo, war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda and nine provincial chairpersons. After the congress, President Robert Mugabe sacked 16 ministers perceived to be aligned to Mujuru on allegations of failing to perform despite there no being an Act that prescribes the conduct of cabinet ministers.

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The expulsions and suspensions were done summarily without even hearing the other side which is the cardinal principle of justice.

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The congress further adopted constitutional amendments, Mutasa argues, without following the party’s constitutional provisions.

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Zimbabwe and the region now await how Mugabe and Zanu PF will respond to the petition.

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The court challenge places the judiciary under the spotlight. Zimbabweans and the region are looking forward to see how independent the judiciary is when it deals with cases involving Zanu PF whose influence is perceived to be ubiquitous in the country’s institutions.

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The matter is unique in that this would be for the first time since independence that a Zanu PF split has taken to the courts. Thrice since 1980, disgruntled members have split from the party they have gone to from theirs without seeking redress from the courts.

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First to leave was maverick Edgar Tekere who was booted out in 1989 for opposing Zanu PF one party state policy. Tekere left to form his own party, Zimbabwe Unity Movement (Zum) that surprisingly got slightly above 20% of the vote in the 1990 parliamentary elections and save the country from a one party state.

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The first black Chief Justice Enoch Dumbutshena was the next when he formed FORUM after being disgruntled by the path the country was taking. The respected lawyer’s decision further exposed the disillusionment among the middle class and upper classes with Zanu PF.

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Last but not least was firebrand woman politician Margaret Dongo, who broke away to form Zimbabwe Union of Democrats (ZUD) after being frustrated by Zanu PF which had started the practice of imposing candidates and rigging elections to remain in power. Dongo challenged and won the 1995 Harare South Constituency parliamentary election which had been won by central intelligence operative Vivian Mwashita. She went on to win the by-election as an independent and immediately formed her own party with support from academic Kempton Makamure.

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It is interesting that, Mutasa and company while they have been decimated since the December Congress have gathered courage to fight back using the legal route. Armed with inside information and over 1000 combined years of membership in the party the fight will be dirty, bruising and long if they choose not to settle out of the courts.

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Will Mugabe hide behind the legal technicalities to have the matter drag in the courts or thrown and increase the perception that the bench is his lapdogs? Or he will subject himself to the court processes and abide by the ruling even if it goes against him?

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Whichever way it goes Mugabe as the current chair of both Sadc and AU will be under the gaze of his peers on how he treats this matter. Mutasa may have at last managed to bring Zanu PF internal fights by default under the gaze of the continent.