About four months ago the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe ruled in favour of Thokozani Khupe in a matter in which there was an argument relating to the legitimacy of her leadership of MDC (T) and Nelson Chamisa’s illegitimate leadership of the MDC Alliance. The court upheld as legitimate Khupe’s leadership of MDC-T and ordered her to call an elective congress not later than three months following the court ruling
The Alliance soon after the court ruling announced that as far as it was concerned, nothing had changed. This declaration pre-decided the fate of the elective congress ordered by the court. The Alliance would not co-operate to resolve the leadership wrangle because that would be tantamount to recognising Khupe as an indispensable element in the opposition party’s body politic.
Now Khupe, her position now bolstered by the court ruling, is cracking the whip, demanding that all Members of Parliament representing the Alliance must join her ranks or face being recalled. It is interesting to wait and see how this threat will pan out. There is, however, more than a sporting chance Khupe will succeed in forcing a mass defection to her party. She has an ally in the law enforcement sphere, which cannot allow the decision of the court to become a laughing stock.
Injurious to itself
There are inevitable twists in the controversy between Chamisa and Khupe, which must be settled before the matter is resolved. One of these pertains to the enforcement of the court ruling in a disputed matter. One factor relates to the arrest of Alliance legal advisor Thabani Mpofu whose recent arrest on so far unclear charges appears to be connected with court proceedings.
The other is the intervention of the military and police in the matter of Harvest House [Morgan Tsvangirai House], which Khupe wants for her party. I am not clear about what happened. But I can comment a little on Mpofu’s arrest. One of the questions in his representation of the Alliance is whether or not he repeated out of court his contention that the court misdirected itself in its ruling in favour of Khupe.
I’m not a lawyer, but I have in my time reported court proceedings. The expression that one has “misdirected” oneself is permissible in court and, therefore, enjoys certain privileges. However, even within the walls of court, one must justify his/her allegation to protect the court. If Mpofu made this assertion in court and repeated it out of court, he would be risking a charge of contempt of court for which he could be arrested. In that event therefore, there would be no room to claim that his arrest was a persecution.
I have watched some adventurous defence or prosecution lawyers being ordered to withdraw a statement or remark which in the judgement of the court is injurious to its image or dignity as a court of law. The court is not a political arena where political slogans have a free rein. The court cannot be ridiculed.
The Alliance has some lofty-minded legal arsenal.
But having said all this, let me focus on Khupe’s party and its relationship with the ruling party. Khupe in her personal capacity appears to be closer to the ruling party than any other political party in the country, including her legal advisor Lovemore Madhuku’s party. Her party, for one example, has never been denied a permit to hold a rally or any public gathering. And yet the party’s showing in the last general election left a great deal to be desired.
Khupe is in a dilemma and must soon find a constituency to prove she is a force to be reckoned with. It remains to be seen if her control of Harvest House and the expected defection by those Alliance MPs who must comply will bring their supporters with them. That is a development that would make a difference.
Khupe appears to think that a legal ruling is an instrument of recruiting followers. She must learn that a court ruling does not extend its force to the political sphere.
If reports that there was military and police presence arresting people outside Harvest House are anything to go by, it is a development, which can only discredit the government and ruling party. The state should not be seen to be taking sides between rival parties. This country has too many powerful enemies to be seen taking sides in such matters.
As for the MDC Alliance, it is clear that its foreign policy is in conflict with the best interest of this country and its people. The Alliance’s foreign policy encourages it to become a proxy for foreign intervention in its favour.