Zimbabwe’s high court has ruled that Nelson Chamisa is not the legitimate leader of the official opposition.
In a judgment delivered on Wednesday, judge Edith Mushore said that the Movement for Democratic Change had not properly followed its own internal processes in appointing Chamisa as vice-president in 2016. It ruled that a new leadership process must be held within a month.
The legal challenge against Chamisa was launched by Elias Mashavire, organising secretary for the party’s Gokwe district.
“This means all the decisions made under Nelson Chamisa administration are null and void. He cannot preside over party matters,” reported the state-run Herald’s chief court reporter, Fidelis Munyoro.
Chamisa’s spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda dismissed the verdict, saying that is was politically motivated. “It is crazy,” he told the Mail & Guardian. “Our reaction is we know that the court system is seriously compromised, it is captured…We see this as the latest and probably the last attempt to derail the Chamisa presidency that Zanu-PF are so scared of.”
Sibanda said that the party’s legal team was examining the judgment before deciding whether to appeal. He added that the party’s congress, scheduled for 24-26 May, would go ahead as planned. “His legitimacy is not questionable. People want continuity and that’s what they’re going to get.”
The late opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai appointed Chamisa as joint vice-president of his faction of the Movement for Democratic Change in 2016, along with Elias Mudzuri and Thokozani Khupe. The decision to appoint three vice-presidents was controversial at the time: some party stalwarts said that it violated party procedure, while analysts suggested the move was designed as a way for Tsvangirai to avoid picking a successor.
After Tsvangirai’s death in 2018, Chamisa won the leadership contest to assume the presidency of the unified Movement for Democratic, although this was also controversial. Khupe, a rival candidate, was allegedly assaulted by Chamisa supporters at Tsvangirai’s funeral.