AS the battle for control of the country’s major opposition the MDC-T, rages on, the party’s former spokesperson and legal expert Mr Obert Gutu has said only a court of law can reverse the outcome of the extraordinary congress.
He said Dr Thokozani Khupe who lost last Sunday’s election to Mr Douglas Mwonzora and then went on to claim to have suspended him, no longer had such powers as the two were contestants in the race to replace the party’s late leader, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai.
On Monday, Dr Khupe chaired a national council meeting that resolved to expel Mr Mwonzora, allegedly for rigging the weekend polls and also for abusing party funds allocated under the Political Parties Finance Act.
However, Mr Gutu said no one from the party president or national chairperson, had such powers under the MDC-T constitution.
“In terms of the MDC constitution, the moment you enter into a contest you are no longer the holder of your position. The election has to be by secret vote conducted by an independent electoral board appointed by the party to prepare and run the election, it is the duty of the electoral board to ensure that they have a legitimate voters’ roll that is agreed on by all candidates. It is also critical to ensure that all delegates are given an opportunity to cast their ballots. It is also the duty of the electoral board to ensure that the election is credible, that there is no rigging and it is free and fair. Contestants rank equally, you enter the election at the same level, you cannot during the congress purport to suspend the other candidates, such a scenario would bastardise the whole process, it would be an absurdity,” said Mr Gutu.
Citing a litany of irregularities, Dr Khupe, who was physically and verbally assaulted by supporters of Mr Mwonzora during the congress, suspended the whole electoral process.
However, Mr Gutu who once served as Dr Khupe’s deputy following yet another split of the MDC-T in the aftermath of Tsvangirai’s death in 2018, said no one has authority over a fellow candidate under the party’s constitution.
“As a fellow candidate Dr Khupe was no longer the interim president, neither was Mr Morgen Komichi the acting chair because he was also in the race, attempts to reverse the congress outcome are therefore ludicrous and won’t pass legal scrutiny in any court of law, the issue of suspension therefore falls away, even the purported cancellation of congress also falls away”.
Mr Gutu added that it is only the electoral board that has legal authority to suspend any election and also dismissed suggestions from Dr Khupe supporters that voters did not constitute a quorum as per the party constitution.
“According to the MDC constitution for any congress, for it to be valid in law, at least two thirds of the congress delegates must be available, now we don’t know how many 2014 delegates are still members of the MDC, some have resigned, some are dead some have joined other parties, so I don’t know the magic number that constitutes two thirds, that becomes an issue of maths. However, in terms of the constitution if the numbers of the delegates do not meet the quorum it doesn’t mean that the result is nullified but that another congress should be held to validate or invalidate the outcome,” said Gutu.
Mr Gutu added that the only route available for Dr Khupe to take is to approach the courts.
“Up until such a time, the results of that congress and its resolutions are valid, without going to court, no word of mouth or amount of politicking may set that aside”.
Mr Mwonzora was declared winner by the electoral board, after bagging 883 votes against Dr Khupe’s 118. The other contestants, Mr Morgen Komichi and Engineer Elias Mudzuri polled nine and 14 votes respectively.
In March this year, the Supreme Court ruled that the MDC-T should hold its extraordinary congress by July 31, but due to the lockdown that was introduced following the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, the party could not proceed as was initially directed by the courts.