On Tuesday, the Supreme Court upheld a previous High Court judgment that declared Mr Nelson Chamisa an illegitimate leader of the MDC. The court ruled that Dr Thokozani Khupe was the legitimate acting president of the party when Chamisa wrestled his way to power a few hours after the death of founding leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, on February 14, 2018. It is now unclear how things will pan out for the opposition political party. The Sunday Mail’s Gender and Community Editor FATIMA BULLA spoke to Dr Khupe about this and more.
Q: What meaning does the Supreme Court ruling carry for you?
A: I welcome the Supreme Court ruling. It does not only carry something for me but it offers justice for everyone who believes in fairness and democracy. You must remember that this case was brought by our organising secretary from the Gokwe Sesame District. This ruling carries so much meaning. Above all, it is important for our democracy and to all who aspire to be leaders in society.
Q: Some say you already knew the judgment prior to it being passed. Is this true?
A: I learnt of the pending judgment from my lawyer, Professor (Lovemore) Madhuku, who had been contacted by the relevant officials to attend the proceedings. This particular case has been going on for a year and the leadership dispute since February 2018.
Naturally, our members have been anxious and it was prudent that we call for calmness among our members who felt betrayed by the justice system through delays which they could not understand, especially in the face of blatant criminality and injustice which occurred after the death of Dr Morgan Tsvangirai. It was important that we make an appeal to our members to accept the outcome of the SC (Supreme Court) judgment regardless of whether it was against us or in our favour. Calling for calmness does not suggest anything except what it means. We are a law-abiding political party.
Q: What impact does the ruling have considering there are two factions, your MDC and MDC-A led by Nelson Chamisa?
A: The court ruling is very clear. You are correctly putting it that these are factions of the same party. One remained in the Alliance and the other opted out of the Alliance. The court has ordered both factions of the MDC-T to go to an extraordinary congress to elect a substantive president. The Alliance was a conglomeration of seven parties, with MDC-T being part of that Alliance.
Q: You contested as MDC-T leader while Nelson Chamisa was on an MDC-A ticket in the 2018 elections. Sentiment is that the court ruling does not change the status quo. What do you say to that?
A: The court was about the legitimate successor to Dr Tsvangirai and what the court has done is to correct the wrongs that were committed by Mr Chamisa and his faction. It has afforded membership of the MDC-T an opportunity to elect its leader as provided for in the constitution of the MDC. We are a social democratic party, which has to live by its founding principles. We subscribe to the ideals of our organisation’s constitutional democracy. We do not subscribe to political expediency.
Q: There is talk of assets and the parliamentary budget of US$7 million at the centre of your fight with Nelson Chamisa. Is what is unfolding before us politics of the tummy?
A: If you have been following the case you will realise that I objected to the unconstitutional appointments of additional VPs way back in 2016. I was the only elected VP of the party. My duties were to assist the president of the party, whose duties included defending and upholding the constitution of the party.
It has never been about assets of the party. It has always been about constitutionalism and democracy. It is the responsibility of the leader of the party to make sure that there is proper governance and sound administrative polices in the party.
The US$7 million that you are referring to is political finance which belongs to the organisation. Whatever funds are received, they must be accounted for. Political finances are meant to fund the activities of the organisations and not an individual. So I am not fighting for myself but the party as a whole.
Q: The court has directed you to convene an extraordinary congress within three months. Are you considering the MDC-A and how will this work out?
A: The extraordinary congress is for the MDC-T and it excludes its Alliance partners. The court did not direct us to include the other six Alliance partners. So we are looking forward to all members of the MDC-T to come together in compliance with the court judgment.
Q: Judging by the number of votes Mr Chamisa polled in the last election compared to yours, some say you should talk to Mr Chamisa and work out a way forward. Is there such a possibility and under what terms would that work out for you?
A: He had the party machinery and resources. Besides the court has directed that we go to an extraordinary congress to elect a leader. I am currently facilitating that and making sure that we hold the extraordinary congress. I am not clear why I must talk to Chamisa outside what has been provided for by the court and our constitution. I cannot be seen to make my own arrangements outside the explicit directive of the court. I will be in contempt of the same.
Q: You have been accused of being a sell-out for joining the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad). You were also part of a team that toured President Mnangagwa’s farm. Sexist comments were also directed at you. What are your thoughts on this?
A: The sexist comments are more of a reflection on those people who make them and the society which tolerates such. Polad requested the President of the country to celebrate Unity Day at his farm, and being a member of Polad, naturally, I attended. Currently, there are 17 out of the 23, 2018 Presidential candidates in Polad.
As an individual, I find it absurd that joining a dialogue platform is equated to selling out. Our country needs all of us to put our heads together and proffer solutions to the Government of the day. I do not believe that there is any other practical solution to resolve the challenges that we face except to iron out our differences and rescue the suffering masses of our country. I am a mature individual who believes in dialogue as a means to resolve issues.
I am not the first opposition individual to meet with President Mnangagwa, the late Morgan Tsvangirai met with him on several occasions accompanied by Chamisa, who even attended the 2018 independence celebrations presided over by the same Government. I think it is only fair that we apply the same standards to measure people, considering I did not visit President Mnangagwa’s farm as an individual but as part of the team that is in dialogue.
Q: There are allegations that some money was misused within the MDC-A. Is this an issue that would be within your purview to deal with? Do you now have power to intervene?
A: Currently, I do not have details of how the money was used. I have read also in the media about the allegations. In the MDC-A we have our party MDC-T, certainly we will be interested to find out what has been happening with regards to public funds under the previous leadership of Mr Nelson Chamisa. I would like to lead a corruption-free organisation and if time permits, I would like to get to the bottom of the matter.
Q: You won the fight against cancer, now the court ruling. How do you think you will fare in the task ahead?
A: God has led me this far. I believe in prayer. With God all things are possible. I will allow God to lead me once again as we restore our party and as we explore ways of getting our country out of its current problems.
To our members and the general population, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the support you gave me throughout the years and as we went through a difficult time as a party. I believe great things lie ahead. Give us a chance to rebuild our party and our great country. We have no other home except Zimbabwe. Let us work together and fix it. United we can achieve so much more.
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