THE court has delivered its judgment and lawyers, journalists and analysts have weighed in with their takes. One thing though is as absolute as the sun will rise from the east tomorrow: the ramifications of Justice Bharat Patel’s pronouncement will shake Zimbabwe’s opposition body politic right to its foundation.
By extension, the same judgment has also composed, signed, sealed and delivered the political epitaphs of some of the country’s most prominent actors. Time will reveal their identities.
I found the judgment a bitter pill to swallow and I still do. For once, I wished I held sway; I would have changed it. Unfortunately, the law is what it is. It is the law.
I still believe that Nelson Chamisa has the numbers. He is charismatic and also that in an election against Thokozani Khupe he would prevail by a wide margin, anytime and anywhere. The Supreme Court judgment acknowledges this fact and more, but still insists that the law be followed.
The judgment also acknowledges that a lot has happened in the intervening period between Chamisa’s appointment as vice-president and the day the initial judgment was handed down. However, the judge then says declaring the judgment moot is tantamount to allowing Chamisa to benefit from an illegality. His appointment to the vice-presidency was unconstitutional and everything else that Chamisa assumed on the basis of that becomes null and void. It has no effect at law.
You land a job as a nurse on the basis of a forged certificate. You get promoted and win the Health Professional of the Year award. You are popular with patients and workmates alike. Later it is revealed that your certificate is a forgery and that you actually failed your nurse training. Do you insist that since you are popular with patients and are the reigning health professional of the year you should be allowed to continue working as if nothing ever happened? That would be a promotion of criminality.
Truth be said, you will be arrested and asked to restitute all the money you received in salaries and awards. This is how the legal system works. One does not have to be an officer of the court to understand this.
The level of bravado in the Chamisa camp is palpable, at least on social media and, curiously, it is coming from either MDC-T returnees or erstwhile adversaries. Returnees are those who once ditched the party and went on to fashion their own political formations.
I briefly unpack the returnees in turn. In 2005, Welshman Ncube, the then secretary-general, raptured and led a breakaway which he called the MDC, claiming that his was the original and those who disagreed were free to form another party. Ncube was buoyed by the fact that he left with the majority of senior members of the standing committee.
This split saw the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai gain the suffix “T” for purposes of differentiating it from the Ncube-led MDC “Green” on the ballot papers. The “T” has stuck.
Nine years later, Tendai Biti, a lawyer and also secretary-general, left the party and formed his own outfit which he christened the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Renewal.
Both Ncube and Biti left citing Tsvangirai’s growing autocratic tendencies and a failure by the country’s main opposition party to handle internal divisions. As they left the party, both protagonists gladly said Zimbabwe was better off in the hands of Zanu PF’s Robert Mugabe and that the main opposition MDC in its current state (which still subsists because not much, if any, has been done to change it) was not in a position to take the reins of state power.
Biti left the MDC-T for reasons alluded to earlier, but it must also be said that some good-for-nothing busybodies and their coterie had sleepless nights stirring oftentimes a non-existent rift between Tsvangirai and his secretary-general. Tsvangirai fell for the dummy — hook, line and sinker — and, as they say, the rest is history. Biti has not forgotten; amnesia is not one of his weaknesses. He will respond in kind at the opportune time. He has the willpower; he is only caching the arsenal.
If both Ncube and Biti left for the same reasons, can it then not be surmised that:
1.Tsvangirai was a problem or
2. The institution that Tsvangirai built and led had such structural deficiencies it could not manage strife in a tolerant manner or
3. Both of the above.
Today, Douglas Mwonzora bemoans the frightening levels of MDC-T intolerance. Social media is there for all to see.
All said and done, the Supreme Court judgment is simply imploring the MDC-T to observe its own constitution. Why should it be so painful for an organisation, which purports to be fighting for democracy and the rule of law to observe and respect a constitution which it voluntarily authored?
At one time, Chamisa went to desperate lengths to demonstrate to the world that Tsvangirai had anointed him to take over the party leadership. This was as absurd as it was rank madness. Where in the party constitution does it give a sitting president the authority to anoint a successor?
To claim that one was anointed is just as bad an abrogation of the constitution if not worse than deploying the “vanguard” youths at a funeral wake for the same purpose.
The MDC-T has guiding principles clearly spelt out in the constitution. Fortunately, journalist Hopewell Chin’ono forewarned us and put it succinctly in an article published by the Zimbabwe Mail on February 16, 2018 following Chamisa’s unconstitutional ascendency to the Presidency thus:
“It will be difficult for the MDC-T and indeed Chamisa and his alliance partners to talk about a return to constitutionalism as a campaign tool when they themselves have failed in that test dismally.”
Indeed, they failed desolately. He further averred: “It would be impossible if not ridiculous for them to accuse (President Emmerson) Mnangagwa of being a coup leader when they themselves have done the same thing, grabbing power by any means necessary.”
Chin’ono here was asking two profound questions:
1. Can Chamisa be trusted to uphold the constitution of the country when he fails to observe that of his own party?
2. Can Zimbabweans honestly look up to MDC-T to deliver us from the clutches of Zanu PF oppression?
When the MDC wins a court case, everyone must respect the judiciary and accept the ruling as fair but, when they lose before the same courts, the judgment must be deemed unfair, the judges seen as biased, unreasonable and captured. Unfortunately, it does not work like that. The law is the law and no one is above it. We must all follow it to the letter and spirit. It is for this reason that countries and organisations have constitutions.
Constitutions are made to protect organisations and the weak against the greedy, those with an insatiable appetite for power, those who think that they are the Creator’s gift to mother earth.
There is no amount of Twitter onslaught that can change what the judgment is demanding of all protagonists. If the judgment is moot and of no consequence to the MDC-Alliance, then why not just ignore it and continue with life as if it never happened? As the Americans would say: “Why scratch where it don’t itch?” The fact that all and sundry are fretting and are hot below the collar getting their undies all twisted is a clear indication that they are aware that it is no longer business as usual.
How about those affidavits being forced down the throats of MPs to swear allegiance to Chamisa and the MDC Alliance? It is a sign of desperation and a clear indication that all is not well.
Chamisa is better advised not to listen to interested parties, especially Biti and Ncube and here is why. Biti once led a group of more than 20 elected Members of Parliament and a host of senators and women’s quota MPs down a cul de sac or a dead end, if you like. The majority of them are still swimming in there with no hope of a comeback while Biti is now back in Parliament and chairing the powerful Public Accounts Committee, one of only two committees provided for in the constitution. He is also enjoying the vice-presidency of the party that he ditched acrimoniously barely four years ago.
The unconstitutional appointment of two vice-presidents is a stark confirmation. Do not say you were not warned.
The MDC-Alliance is not a political party but a special purpose vehicle created to present a united opposition front to Zanu PF. Remember PF Zapu and Zanu PF. They were the Patriotic Front for the purpose of confronting the enemy with a united front and yet they remained distinct political parties.
The founding MDC-Alliance document is clear that when the alliance fails to assume state power in the 2018 election, then each party would go back to its original position. This is exactly what the MDC-T did and so did Brigadier Agrippa Mutambara, Guchutu, et al. The MDC-Alliance has no constitution. Obviously, someone with a fertile imagination is currently in the process of putting something together. Please do not be that clumsy, we do not want a repeat of the V11 Constitutional Court charade. Comply with the court ruling. Do not postpone the pain. Go through it and the sooner the better.
African have always lamented that our leaders make mistakes because they are either insulated from the truth by the sycophants surrounding them or they are simply allergic to the truth if it does not tickle their delusions of grandeur. We had hope in learned youthful leaders but lo and behold they are just as bad, if not worse than the old-school Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and others.
In 2017, Eric Matinenga was requested to give a legal opinion on the appointment of Chamisa and Mudzuri to the MDC-T vice-presidency. Had his advice been heeded, all this mess would have been averted. Tsvangirai created all this mess. It is time to call a spade by its name and look the monster in the eye. As soon as Tsvangirai made those two appointments, financial support from traditional funders literally dried up. Apart from violating the constitution, backers also cited violence and intolerance and they pointed to the beating up of Elton Mangoma at Harvest House right in front of Tsvangirai, while Tendai Biti survived by the skin of his teeth.
Given what we saw at Tsvangirai’s funeral when the usurpation of power was in full swing, the MDC-T is sadly mutating towards autocracy and fast morphing into a chete chete (he alone) “Dear-Leader and Obedient-Servant” movement, the very monster it was created to fight and resist.
Zanu PF hegemony, weak institutions and strongman tendencies are what destroyed Zimbabwe and led to the unceremonious ouster of Mugabe. Murisi Zwizwai, MDC-T secretary for elections, announced in the run up to the 2019 congress that anyone who dared oppose Chamisa for the presidency would be decisively dealt with. Such irresponsible utterances from a senior official (never mind that Murisi is generally not taken seriously) have the effect to import anarchy amongst a recalcitrant and excitable legion of youth regardless.
Why does a 21st century political outfit ready to lead the country on the path to world-class democracy and the rule of law have a uniformed militia? Even Angola’s MPLA which fought a 30-year civil war post-colonialism does not have a militia. Militia equals violence, simple. Otherwise why have it? The law is the law. You cannot have your cake and eat it.
Dube is MDC-T Youth Assembly member, Gokwe Mapfungautsi, email: Crdube92@yahoo.com