By Fidelis Munyoro
There are likely to be two presidential candidates under the MDC-T name on the ballot paper in this year’s harmonised elections after the High Court yesterday ruled an application by Mr Nelson Chamisa seeking to bar his rival Dr Thokozani Khupe’s faction from using the MDC-T name and logo was not urgent.
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 after the two went their separate ways following the death of founding leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai in February.
Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Francis Bere threw out the application for lack of merit.
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.
Justice Bere upheld all the preliminary points raised by Dr Khupe’s lawyer, Professor Lovemore Madhuku, and dismissed the application brought under a certificate of urgency without going into the merits of the dispute.
Spokeswoman for Mr Chamisa’s faction, Ms Thabitha Khumalo, yesterday confirmed the ruling, but said she could not comment on the judgment.
“I am still looking for the judgment,” she said. “I have sent messages to our lawyer to furnish me with the details, but he has not responded.”
Mr Obert Gutu, who was elected deputy president of Dr Khupe’s faction at the weekend, said they had been vindicated by the judgment.
“We are actually excited and (I) feel vindicated as a senior lawyer,” said Mr Gutu.
“From day one, I was always convinced that we were going to win the case.”
He said it was clear from the onset that the urgent application by Mr Chamisa’s faction was “totally and absolutely frivolous and vexatious”.
“It is also a serious indictment on the legal competence of whoever is providing legal advice to the other side,” said Mr Gutu.
“If they want free lessons on the subject of constitutionalism and the rule of law, I am willing and available to teach them.”
Mr Chamisa was endorsed by the MDC-T national council — considered the party’s supreme decision-making body in between congresses – as party’s substantive president on March 23 following Mr Tsvangirai’s death.
Dr Khupe argued that the party’s constitution did not accord such powers to the national council.
In its application, Mr Chamisa’s faction, which was represented by TJ Mabhikwa law firm, cited Dr Khupe, ex-organising secretary Mr Abednico Bhebhe and former party spokesman Mr Gutu as respondents.
It was seeking an order to stop Dr Khupe’s faction from “unlawfully exploiting and abusing its registered MDC-T trademark, symbols and signs”.
It also argued that Dr Khupe and others were dismissed from the party and so could not continue using the opposition party’s symbols.
Mr Chamisa’s faction accused Dr Khupe of masquerading as the MDC-T leader and the party’s presidential candidate in the forthcoming elections.
But Prof Madhuku argued that Dr Khupe was the MDC-T acting president because the party’s constitution gave her the legal footing to claim the post following the death of Mr Tsvangirai.
He said Mr Chamisa’s faction should have given the court the party’s constitution to buttress its argument.
It was also Dr Khupe’s contention that Mr Chamisa imposed himself and sought to consolidate his “coup d”état” by refusing to hold an extraordinary congress to choose a new substantive leader.