SW Radio Africa (London)

9 May 2014

Zimbabwe: Khupe Remains Parliament's Opposition Leader

The refusal by Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda to be dragged into the MDC-T factional fighting leaves Thokozani Khupe as the leader of the opposition in Parliament, the MDC-T chief whip said on Friday.

Innocent Gonese, the MDC-T MP for Mutare Central, said the fact the speaker admitted he had no authority and role to play in the internal disciplinary actions, disputes or differences within political parties, is a clear indication nothing has changed in the composition of the MDC-T make-up in Parliament.

'What came out clearly from Tendai Biti's letter, purporting to have suspended Vice-President Khupe, is of no force or effect. Khupe remains and is the leader of the opposition in Parliament, the status quo in that regard will stand.

'As far as the MDC-T parliamentary caucus is concerned, we will be falling under the leadership of Thokozani Khupe. The MDC-T still has the legal right, according to chapter 129(k) of the Constitution, to recall MPs who breakaway and form their own party,' Gonese said.

The speaker's statement on Thursday was in response to the letters written to him by Khupe advising him of the dismissal of nine party MPs on charges of indiscipline. The MDC-T deputy leader's letter followed a pre-emptive one sent by Biti, telling the Speaker to ignore any correspondence that seeks to have the rebel legislators expelled from parliament.

Now Mudenda has advised the two factions to approach the courts for arbitration. He said neither he nor Senate President Edna Madzongwe had the authority to make a ruling over the threats to recall the MPs.

'In any case, neither the President of the Senate nor the Speaker of the National Assembly has authority and a role to play in internal disciplinary actions, disputes or differences within political parties, which matters may be appropriately dealt with by a competent court,' Mudenda said.

A statement released from Harvest House said the party is happy that the Speaker has refused to aid Biti's move, described by them as a Parliament coup, saying he has in fact, 'educated Biti that in circumstances where he intends to overturn and overthrow an obtaining legal order; Parliament is not the appropriate platform.'

'As such, the Speaker of Parliament has not made a ruling endorsing Biti's position, neither has he ruled that Biti is the sole communicator with parliament. The response by Speaker Mudenda leaves the door open for the MDC to exercise its power of recall according to the Constitution. The party is going to proceed with recalling those Members of Parliament that no longer belong to it,' the statement added.

Political analyst, Gideon Chitanga said ZANU PF has emerged as the overall winner in the decision taken by the speaker, who comes from the ruling party.

'ZANU PF is looking at the strategic benefits from the problems that are arising from the factional fighting within the MDC-T.

Politically they were not going to take a position that would stabilize the MDC-T, by taking a position aligned to the request by the faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai, because that was going to send a clear message that it was the legitimate voice of the MDC and therefore stabilize the party,' Chitanga said.

He added: 'The difficulties with aligning with the former secretary-general are clear, because his position is weaker in the party and in terms of the supporters.'

Chitanga is of the belief that by not adjudicating on the matter, the Speaker was simply saying let the MDC-T fight and burn its own house, as ZANU PF stands to benefit.

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