Three parliamentarians elected on the MDC-Alliance ticket yesterday defied a boycott and attended a sitting of the Portfolio Committee on Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement.
The three are Ms Virginia Mafuta (Proportional Representative), David Tekeshe (Makoni Central) and Ms Joyce Makonya (Proportional Representative).
The committee meeting, chaired by Gokwe-Nembudziya legislator Cde Justice Mayor Wadyajena, was called to hear evidence from officials from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement on the country’s state of preparedness for this winter’s cropping season.
The action by the three is an escalation of the wrangling within the opposition party following a Supreme Court judgment that ruled that Mr Nelson Chamisa had illegally ascended to the helm of the MDC-T party following the death of its founding leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai.
The Supreme Court also nullified the appointments of Adv Chamisa and Mr Elias Mudzuri as vice presidents and ordered the party to revert to the 2014 structures and call for an elective congress in 90 days with Ms Thokozani Khupe as the interim president.
According to the Supreme Court ruling Mr Douglas Mwonzora reverted to his position as secretary-general and Mr Morgan Komichi to that of chairman.
Mr Mwonzora then recalled four legislators among them Mr Charlton Hwende, Prosper Mutseyami, Ms Thabitha Khumalo and Ms Lillian Timveos. Mr Chamisa’s group then resolved to boycott parliamentary proceedings in solidarity with the recalled four.
The group aligned to Mr Chamisa argued that they were no longer members of the MDC-T, but the MDC-Alliance under whose banner they contested last year’s elections.
Ms Makonya said she ignored the boycott after being abused by fellow MPs who accused her of backing Mr Mwonzora.
“I was removed from the party WhatsApp group by Lilian Timveos who accused me of backing Mr Mwonzora since we hail from Manicaland province.
“I was briefly re-admitted into the group, but was removed again and it was at that point that I realised that a lot of things were happening behind my back,” she said.
Asked which of the MDC groups she belonged to, Ms Makonya said: “I belong to the MDC-T that was left behind by Mr Tsvangirai and I stand by the ruling that was made by the Supreme Court.”
Another legislator Mr Tekeshe said: “I do not believe I am defying the party directive, but that I am doing what the constituency has directed me to do. During this time of Covid-19, my people need me the most and if I don’t come to these platforms they miss out on many things. People think that being in opposition is hatred and enmity, but I think we need to unite.”
Asked if he still recognised Mr Chamisa as his leader, Mr Tekeshe said the time was not ripe to declare his allegiance. “That is a tough one. We will cross the bridge when we get to it. All I can say is that in a democracy, we have the right to make choices and I made the choice to come to Parliament. I am not an MP for the love of politics, but for the love of the people,” he said.
Ms Mafuta declined to comment.
Cde Wadyajena thanked the opposition members for attending the committee meeting.
“We must thank members of the MDC who have come for the committee though there maybe intimidations and harassment, but we thank them for coming to support the committee and do what they were elected to do,” he said.
In a related development, Mr Mwonzora yesterday said it was not his party’s intention to recall more MPs, but said they would not hesitate to do so to those who disrespected Parliament.
“There is a possibility that other MPs can be recalled from Parliament if they commit offences that deserve a recall or apply for a recall,” said Mr Mwonzora.
“That application is by way of actions. Such actions for instance include boycott of parliamentary business during this period when the country is fighting Covid-19. We have to deal with the health situation welfare issues in Zimbabwe and all these require Parliament to be sitting. In this case where we have Covid-19, failure to attend Parliament is an act that warrants a recall from Parliament.”
Mr Mwonzora said the party was going ahead with preparations for its congress, which is tentatively set for July 31, 2020.
The committee agreed to meet later to enable the Permanent Secretary in the ministry Dr John Basera to attend after he failed to turn up yesterday.
Mr Hwende, who is the secretary-general under Mr Chamisa, said those who attended Parliament yesterday did so out of their own choice.