Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda is this week expected to announce the fate of UMDC affiliated MPs in a ruling which is set to have a telling effect on opposition politics in Parliament.
A total of 19 National Assembly members and four senators who got into Parliament on an MDC-T ticket in 2013, face ejection from their seats.
Zanu (PF) Buhera West MP Oliver Mandipaka two weeks ago raised a point of order in which he called on the Speaker to declare the seats vacant in terms of sections 129 (k) of the constitution. The MDC-T has also written to Mudenda asking him to recall the MPs as they have formed a new political party.
Among the legislators who face the possibilities of a recall include Harare East MP Tendai Biti, Lobengula MP Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, Makokoba MP Gordon Moyo, Kuwadzana MP Lucia Matibenga, former MDC-T youth leader and Glen View South MP Paul Madzore, and his young brother Solomon Madzore (Dzivarasekwa), as well as senator Sekai Holland (Harare Metropolitan province).
Constitutional law expert Greg Linington said the situation was very chaotic for the opposition as their numbers would continue to dwindle.
“It is a very tragic situation at the moment and will heavily affect the future of Zimbabwe,” he said.
“This is a big mess because we need an opposition that is organised and works together to sort out the challenges that Zimbabweans are facing. It means the opposition is now weakened in terms of being a watchdog on how the economy and the country are being run.”
Political analyst Dewa Mavhinga said the constitutional provision for recalling MPs was quite straightforward and positive as it ensured that voters could decide which party they wanted.
“However, the situation is complicated by an uneven electoral field. Endorsement by the Speaker of the National Assembly will only formalise a split which has been in existence for a while now,” Mavhinga said.
“It is also likely that if the 21 MPs from the MDC Renewal Team are recalled the impact would be to drive a wedge between the MDC factions making the prospects of a grand coalition of opposition parties against Zanu PF a remote possibility. Given the MDC factions’ common stance of boycotting by-elections this recall is a gift to Zanu PF.”
Some of the MPs have been very vocal during debates in the current Eighth session of Parliament and made lively and useful debates.
These include Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya, Kambuzuma MP Willias Madzimure and Evelyn Masaiti Muzungu (proportional representation). In the senate, targets include Manicaland senator Patrick Chitaka and Harare Metropolitan senator Rorana Muchihwa who have been very vocal.
Chikwinya and Madzimure introduced highly debated motions on issues of corruption, the state of the economy and other matters of national importance.
UMDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume, however, said the 21 MPs would not be recalled because the legal position as expounded by section 129 (k) and (l) of the constitution referred to MPs who had become members of a new political party.
“The legal position has not changed because we have not formed a new entity, but we have agreed to form a coalition which has both parties and can accommodate more. The agreement is a roadmap to form a coalition, not to dissolve the political parties,” Mafume said.
He said if the UMDC MPs were recalled then opposition politics would be the loser.
“The MPs that seek renewal are the best crop of MPs the country has had and it is tragic that like Zanu PF, Morgan Tsvangirai does not care about performance, but only cares that one has to be loyal. If the Speaker rules in their favour, it will further weaken the opposition in Parliament to the advantage of Zanu PF and affect the critical work of what needs to be done to deal with the economy,” Mafume said.
“In the interest of the nation we needed to form a grand coalition with other political parties in and outside Parliament to bring about change in Zimbabwe. We believe there are many democrats in the MDC-T who do not support this move, but are fearful of their leadership.”
One of the MPs who crossed over to the UMDC Chikwinya said UMDC was not a political party. He said until the leadership dispute was resolved no MDC faction could claim legitimacy – at least at law.
“To say the UMDC affiliated legislators should be recalled is not about me as an individual but is a complete betrayal of the people and my services and ability to represent my constituency in Parliament. The recall is simply an act of donating seats to Zanu PF. It is an act born out of vengeance, malice, and jealousy by losers like Douglas Mwonzora,” Chikwinya said.
Mwonzora said they would not budge and would fight ahead to have the UMDC affiliated MPs recalled.
“There is no purpose for us as MDC-T to have 21 uncooperative MPs because it is tantamount to having two Zanu PF parties in Parliament. They are of no use to us. They cannot try to court sympathy when they are the ones who brought this on themselves,” Mwonzora said.