Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter—
MDC-T has made a U-turn on its decision to boycott elections and signalled its intention to take part in pending by-elections after 21 of its legislators were yesterday expelled from Parliament upon its request. Parliament expelled the legislators after the party wrote disowning them, saying they were no longer representing its interest in the House after they joined the recently-formed United Movement for Democratic Change.
The new party is a merger between former MDC-T secretaries-general Mr Tendai Biti, who broke away to lead MDC Renewal Team, and Professor Welshman Ncube, who formed his own MDC.
MDC-T had passed a resolution to boycott elections at its special congress held in November last year.
The 21 MPs — 17 from the National Assembly and four from the Senate — were expelled after joining UMDC.
National Assembly speaker Advocate Jacob Mudenda and Senate president Edna Madzongwe announced the rulings in the two houses.
The ruling reduces the MDC-T seats in Parliament from 91 to 70, with the opposition party now having 32 seats in the National Assembly from 49 and 17 seats in Senate from 21.
Zanu-PF has 192 seats in the National Assembly down from 197, with by-elections due in five constituencies it previously held but fell vacant due to expulsions, deaths and the elevation of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and former Vice President Joice Mujuru.
The 17 members that were expelled from the National Assembly are Tendai Biti (Harare East), Willias Madzimure (Kambuzuma), Lucia Matibenga (Kuwadzana East), Paul Madzore (Glen View), Reggie Moyo (Luveve), Solomon Madzore (Dzivarasekwa), Bekithemba Nyathi (Mpopoma Pelandaba), Albert Mhlanga (Pumula), Moses Manyengavana (Highfield West), Samuel Sipepa Nkomo (Lobengula), Roseline Nkomo (Tsholotsho North), Settlement Chikwinya (Mbizo), Gorden Moyo (Makokoba) and Arnold Tsunga (Chikanga Dangamvura).
Those who got in the National Assembly through proportional representation and were also booted out are; Evelyn Masaiti, Judith Muzhavazhe and Gladys Mathe.
Those who lost their seats in the Senate are Sekai Holland (Chizhanje), Rorana Muchihwa (Chikomo), Watchy Sibanda (Matabeleland South) and Patrick Chitaka (Manicaland).
MDC-T spokesperson Mr Obert Gutu welcomed the decision taken by Adv Mudenda and Cde Madzongwe, adding there would be changes to the party’s stance on boycotting elections.
“As you know in life nothing is cast in stone,” he said. “It doesn’t mean if you want to eat vegetables today you will want to eat vegetables tomorrow.
“It is up to the National Council to digest the implications of the ruling and then we will take it from there because like I said we are a democratic party and respect the wishes of the people.”
MDC Renewal spokesperson Mr Jacob Mafume slammed the ruling by the presiding officers.
“It is with all due respect a decision that is bad at law and in fact it is contradictory and defies logic,” Mr Mafume said without elaborating.
Announcing the decision to declare the 17 seats vacant in the National Assembly Adv Mudenda said he had reached the decision after confirming that there were no longer any disputes on the MDC-T leadership before the courts.
This, he said, nullified the ruling he made in November last year on the matter when the cases were still pending in court.
“It is vital that at this moment that I should announce that the ruling made by the Honourable Speaker in November 2014 was due to the fact that there were two cases pending in the High Court involving Thamsanqa Mahlangu and 129 others vs Tendai Biti and others Case No 4955/2014 and Thamsanqa Mahlangu and two others vs Tendai Biti and three others case number HC1503/14,” said Adv Mudenda.
“These were the cases which dealt with the crucial issue of leadership of the MDC-T party. The prayer sought in the applications was that the meeting held at Mandel Training Centre and the resolutions reached there at be declared null and void. It was prudent that I did not pronounce myself on the matter as it was sub judice and against the principle of separation of powers.”
Adv Mudenda said following the withdrawal of the cases by Mr Mahlangu and others, he was notified by Mr Mwonzora of the changed circumstances.
“In the same vein Honourable Biti and others never approached the courts to claim legitimacy of the leadership of the MDC-T party,” he said. “The resolution to recall the members was made at the MDC-T congress held in November 2014.
“The MDC-T congress was widely advertised and the affected members never sought at the material time to interdict the holding of that congress nor challenge it in the courts of law in so far as the outcome of that congress was concerned.
“Verifications that the matters are no long pending before the High Courts were made and there is apparently no longer a legal dispute regarding the legitimacy of the leadership of the MDC-T party in the High Court.”
Adv Mudenda said because of the absence of a court order setting aside the MDC-T’s decision to expel the members as reached at its congress last year, he was obliged to expel the affected members.
“The Constitution is very clear, in particular with the obligations of the Speaker and therefore in the absence of a court order setting aside the MDC-T party’s decision to expel the affected members, I am obliged to declare the seats vacant. To that extent the position of the Constitution in Section (129) (1) (k) is unambiguous regarding the declaration of a vacant parliamentary seat. Consequently vacancies have arisen in the following constituencies by the operation of the law,” he said.
“The necessary administrative measures will be taken immediately to inform His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission of the existence of the vacancies in line with section 39 (1) of the Electoral Act.”
Some of the expelled parliamentarians expressed mixed views on the development.
Senator Holland, who has been nominated UMDC interim president, said the decision was a sign of the rule of law.
“At least there is one place the rule of law is being upheld,” she said. “We hope the rule of law will be upheld in all of Zimbabwe,” she said.
Mr Reggie Moyo said they would discuss as expelled members to map the way forward.
“We will obviously sit down to map the way forward and approach our legal team and see the way the forward,” he said.
Mr Solomon Madzore said the move to recall them was uncalled for.
“It’s an unnecessary slap in the face and it’s an unnecessary drawback on the people of Zimbabwe,” he said. “The move made by Tsvangirai and Mwonzora is a non-event.”
Senator Muchihwa said Parliament’s decision was wrong.
“This is politics at play,” she said. “I want to be expelled by the people who voted for me and not these people.”