A recent court ruling in Zimbabwe has rejected the appeal made by 14 opposition lawmakers who claimed that an impersonator posing as a party official was the cause of their disqualification by the parliament. The disqualification resulted in the need for by-elections to be held on December 7 to replace the 14 disqualified lawmakers, as well as one other MP who did not file an appeal.
This development carries significant implications, as the ruling ZANU-PF party, which previously won a contested election in August, could potentially secure the two-thirds majority required to amend the country’s constitution.
The controversy arose in early October when a letter, purportedly written by an individual named Sengezo Tshabangu, who claimed to be the interim secretary general of the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party, declared that the 15 lawmakers had ceased to be party members.
Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the CCC, challenged this assertion, urging the speaker of parliament to dismiss the letter. Chamisa pointed out that Sengezo Tshabangu was not a CCC member, the party had no secretary general, and they had not expelled or recalled any MPs.
However, despite these claims, the electoral commission received a letter from the parliamentary speaker, Jacob Mudenda, who is affiliated with ZANU-PF. Mudenda declared the seats of the 15 lawmakers vacant, thus setting the stage for the legal battle.
Harare High Court Judge Munamato Mutevedzi, who presided over the case, stated, “The applicants failed to produce their party constitution or any document which showed that Tshabangu could possibly not have held the post of party secretary general. It was simply their word that he wasn’t.”
The decision by the court has intensified political tensions in Zimbabwe, where disputes have been escalating since an August 23 vote that international observers criticized for not meeting democratic standards. In that election, Nelson Chamisa, 45, lost the presidential race to the incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa, 81, who represents ZANU-PF.
ZANU-PF, which has been in power since the country’s independence in 1980, secured a parliamentary majority in the election but fell a few lawmakers short of the numbers needed to change the constitution.
The CCC alleges that more than a dozen of its affiliates, including MPs and councillors, have been arrested on dubious charges since the election.
This ruling intensifies the ongoing political turmoil in Zimbabwe, as the nation grapples with the aftermath of a disputed election and the challenges of governance in the face of a contentious opposition.