DARING MDC legislators on Tuesday openly revolted against the Nelson Chamisa-led MDC faction’s directive to disengage from parliamentary business after attending a portfolio committee meeting, as factional wars in the main opposition party took a new twist.
This came a day after hordes of MPs roundly rejected overtures by the faction to boycott parliamentary business in protest to the recall last week of four legislators by the Thokozani Khupe-led group temporarily in charge of the MDC following a recent Supreme Court ruling.
Three MPs, Peter Moyo (Southerton Constituency), David Tekeshe (Makoni Central) and Winnie Kanguni (Sunningdale), attended the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare parliamentary committee meeting in defiance of Chamisa’s directive.
In an interview with the Daily News, Moyo and Tekeshe confirmed defying their party directive and insisted they would not disengage from Parliament because there was no consultation when the decision was reached by Chamisa and his allies.
“The issue is that we are just not getting each other. We have different views. What is important is that we should come together and decide what to do next. People are allowed to express their views and then move on. I went to Parliament on (Tuesday) because we had not finished debate on the issue of food assistance to the communities,” said Moyo. “The issue is that we are disputing the decision by the party to tell us to disengage before they consult. If they are saying MPs should disengage, everyone else should disengage, a war is not fought in bits and pieces and after that we will come up with the best way forward.
“I couldn’t miss the meeting because that meeting was crucial, especially during this time of Covid-19 when people in our constituencies are hungry. We have people who we lead who we should consult first. Let us not put emotions everywhere.
“For the record, I voted for Chamisa and I will vote for him again, but let us not use emotions here. The bigger question is: Why didn’t we boycott Parliament when we said the presidential elections were rigged? Why should we disengage from Parliament simply because four MPs have been recalled from Parliament?”
On the other hand, Tekeshe said he would not follow the mob in disengaging from Parliament as directed by the party, but would continue to attend Parliament so as to represent the people who elected him to office.
“I am not afraid of anyone. We are sometimes moved by the mob mentality, but I am not that type. I belong to the committee of social welfare that is critical at this stage during Covid-19. Why are some people angry? Isn’t it that democracy entails that we share ideas?
“Maybe my fellow MPs will see reason and join us in Parliament to deliver to the people. This is the time when my constituency needs me most. I am not going to disengage from parliamentary business, no,” said Tekeshe.
Kanguni declined to comment.
Some MPs who spoke on condition of anonymity in fear of retribution from the Chamisa camp, told the Daily News that they were not ready to follow the directive to boycott parliament as they risked being recalled by the Khupe faction.
A meeting to gauge support for Chamisa that was held at the Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House in Harare on Monday went awry as the majority of the MPs castigated the party leadership for having reached the decision to boycott Parliament without their input.
Audio recordings leaked to the Daily News show there was aversion to Chamisa’s directive.
Deputy secretary-general of the Chamisa camp Jameson Timba yesterday told the Daily News that the party would decide the fate of the three MPs and others who dare defy the directive when the national council meets.
“The reasons for their attendance can best be explained by each individual MP. The consequences of defying a party directive will be determined by the appropriate party organ, our national council.
“The date will be set after completion of our nationwide consultations on the way forward,” said Timba.
All this comes after the Supreme Court recently upheld last year’s ruling by the High Court, which said Chamisa’s ascendancy to the leadership of the MDC had violated the opposition party’s constitution.
In the unanimous judgment that was handed down by Supreme Court judges Paddington Garwe, Bharat Patel and Antoinette Guvava, Chamisa’s elevation to the MDC’s presidency was thus declared unconstitutional, and null and void.
The ruling also automatically re-instated former MDC secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora and ex-chairperson Morgen Komichi — who both lost their positions at the party’s chaotic congress in Gweru last year — to their previous positions.
And in addition to installing Khupe as interim party president, it also ordered her to convene an extraordinary MDC congress to elect a new leadership within three months.
Last week, the Khupe group successfully recalled Chalton Hwende (Kuwadzana), Tabitha Khumalo (MDC proportional representative), Prosper Mutseyami (Dangamvura) and Midlands senator Lillian Timveos, from Parliament, as it flexed its muscles and demonstrated that it is fully in charge of the beleaguered party for now.
To compound the problems facing MDC MPs, the government emphasised at the weekend that it would withdraw all their benefits if they “disengaged” from Parliament.
The minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi — who is also the leader of government business in Parliament — said any attempts by the MDC legislators to withdraw from the august House would also see them losing the vehicles that they acquired on loan.
The MDC has a total of 107 legislators who got top-of-the-range vehicles, including Toyota Hiluxes worth between US$40 000 and US$60 000.
Under their parliamentary privilege, they are supposed to pay for them through a stop order for a period of five years.
Besides their average monthly salary of between $6 000 and $8 000, the MPs are entitled to $700 sitting allowances per session, fuel coupons, and lucrative foreign trips on parliamentary business.
Mwonzora has since warned MPs who are siding with Chamisa that they risked losing their seats.