By Richard Muponde
A brutal legal showdown is looming between two main claimants to the MDC-T throne, Thokozani Khupe and Douglas Mwonzora who controversially won the party’s presidency at a chaotic extraordinary congress held in Harare on Sunday — after the former instructed her lawyers to file an urgent court application seeking the annulment of the election results.
The two erstwhile protagonists teamed up to dislodge firebrand youthful politician Nelson Chamisa from the helm of the party after successfully challenging the constitutionality of his ascendency to its leadership at the Supreme Court in March.
However, no sooner had they succeeded than their paths crossed as they fought for the heart and soul of the opposition party.
Mwonzora trounced Khupe by 883 to 118 votes, but she has refused to recognise the result saying the election was rigged.
Khupe held a press conference to immediately “suspend” Mwonzora.
She also suspended the congress in the middle of voting, citing rigging by Mwonzora.
The congress was characterised by violence leading Khupe to abandon the process along with the other presidential aspirants, Elias Mudzuri and Morgen Komichi.
Mwonzora’s victory was announced in the wee hours of Monday by the MDC-T’s independent electoral management body.
Khupe, Komichi and Mudzuri disputed the process describing it as a sham.
Addressing a press conference at a local hotel in Harare yesterday, Khupe’s spokesperson Kaliphani Phugeni confirmed that the matter was now being handled by lawyer Lovemore Madhuku, who has been tasked to prepare a legal challenge seeking an order nullifying the proceedings of the congress and Mwonzora’s win.
“As I was coming here I was phoned by the party lawyer Lovemore Madhuku pertaining the issue. The matter is now with the lawyers for a legal opinion. Everyone saw what transpired on the day of the congress and the legal opinion will guide the leadership with regards to the EOC,” Phugeni said.
He said the decision to approach the court was made after realising that it was impossible to hold a free, fair and credible congress as envisaged by the Supreme Court when it delivered its ruling in March.
“Whereas the court ordered the holding of the EOC, it’s just not the gathering of people to vote but there are set standards. The congress was not free, fair and credible,” he said, adding Khupe was still in control of the party until the dispute was resolved.
“The truth of the matter is that the Supreme Court ordered the EOC in line with the party Constitution. I am sure the court also saw what happened. It was impossible to hold a free, fair and credible congress considering what happened,” Phugeni said.
He said the national council met on Monday and endorsed the suspension of Mwonzora and also deemed the resolutions made by the congress null and void.
MDC-T acting spokesman Tapiwa Mashakada declined to comment on the matter when asked by NewsDay yesterday saying Mwonzora will call a press conference (today) to clarify the issues at stake.
“There will be a press conference tomorrow at 11am at Harvest House. President Mwonzora is to address the event and clarify all the issues,” Mashakada said.
Khupe told journalists on Sunday night while voting was in progress that she had suspended Mwonzora from his position, and also filed a report for serious fraud under (IR) 123496 at Harare Central Police Station against her erstwhile partner.
On Sunday morning, she had attempted to get Mwonzora arrested by the Special Anti-Corruption Unit (Sacu) on allegations of abuse of party funds but called MDC Alliance lawyer Thabani Mpofu instead of Sacu head, Tabani Vusa Mpofu.
She alleged she had been manhandled by Mwonzora’s supporters and that other party members and election agents were also subjected to violence.
However resolutions adopted by the congress after Mwonzora had been declared the winner, read by Mashakada said the suspension of was null and void as Khupe had ceased to be interim party president at the commencement of the polling. NewsDay