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10.05.2019 Africa

Focus On Africa: Harare Court Disqualifies Chamisa To Lead Opposition MDC

By William Niba - RFI
REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
MAY 10, 2019 AFRICA

A Zimbabwe court has declared Nelson Chamisa unqualified to lead the opposition MDC and set a deadline for the party to elect a new leader.

The state-owned Herald newspaper reports that the High Court verdict follows an application by the party's Gokwe district organizing secretary, Elias Mashavire, challenging Morgan Tsvangirai's decision to unilaterally hand-pick his “blue-eyed boys” for key positions ahead of others in the contest to succeed him.

Leadership dispute

“People are shocked by the court's decision but not the MDC, which has adopted a sober approach,” comments Harrison Nkomo, a Zimbabwean barrister.

He says that the tribunal probably avoided a violent backlash by setting a deadline close to the party's national congress.

According to Nkomo, MDC members are bound to question the rationale behind the court's decision to oblige the party to elect only a leader at an extraordinary meeting, instead of the entire executive they plan to pick during the national elective congress.

MDC to appeal ruling

The Zimbabwean lawyer says an executive member of the MDC has indicated their intention to appeal against the ruling.

“The net effect of an appeal in our judicial system is to suspend the judgment of course,” explains Harrison Nkomo, arguing that “if the party's legal team can get a suspension of the court's judgment, nothing stops the MDC from proceeding with its congress”.

Meanwhile, the South African Mail and Guardian reports that MDC stalwarts have been venting their outrage about the ruling. It quotes Chamisa's spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda as saying that Zimbabwe's court system is seriously compromised and has been captured by the ZANU/PF regime in Harare.

South Africa's Citizen newspaper describes the High Court ruling as a clear attempt by the ruling ZANU/PF to destabilise the opposition.

Questions of legitimacy

MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume has jumped on the ruling to reiterate his party's stance that Emmerson Mnangagwa is illegitimate and that “the judgment of the court will not derail the will of the people”.

Barrister Harrison Nkomo says he agrees with Mafume, arguing that government officials “derive their mandates from the people, not from the courts”. As he explains, “Zimbabwe's legitimacy crisis stems from the MDC's stance that President Mnangagwa derived his mandate from a constitutional court judgment, not from the people”.

Nkomo blames the political stalemate in the country on the absence of parties willing to initiate meaningful dialogue. That is the reason for the prolonged suffering of Zimbabwe's people.

Skyrocketing inflation

Bread prices leaped by 70 percent over recent months after the Grain Miller's Association warned that the country was running out of wheat.

Zimbabwe's inflation rate has hit 290 percent this year becoming the second highest in the world after Venezuela (reportedly 80 000 percent at the end of 2018), according to US economist and currency expert Steve Hanke.

According to the American economist the prices of basic commodities are being driven up mostly by the shortage of foreign currency, which had led to huge disparities in the exchange rate between Zimbabwe's surrogate currency, the bond note, and the US dollar.

The situation has been compounded by widespread poverty and galloping unemployment.