via Biti under fire – DailyNews Live 2 July 2014 by Thelma Chikwanha
HARARE – The wisdom or otherwise of Tendai Biti’s MDC rebels going ahead with a disputed disciplinary hearing against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday, despite the High Court putting the process on hold, continues to raise heated debate among Zimbabweans.
While many legal experts say the so-called renewal team acted in contempt of court by forging ahead with the hearing, the rebels are adamant they did not break any law.
MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora, a lawyer who also represents the MDC in the current matter, told the Daily News yesterday that Biti and his group were well aware of the pending High Court judgment when their purported tribunal sat to judge Tsvangirai, as they had been notified of the development on Thursday evening.
“Lovemore Madhuku (who represents the rebels in the matter) was told by the court that judgment was going to be delivered at 9:30 am and at 9:45 am the judgment was delivered, but he (Madhuku) chose not to come to court,” Mwonzora said.
Mwonzora added that the High Court interdict explicitly said that the respondents, including Biti and anybody else acting on the rebels’ instructions, were barred from holding the hearing.
Furthermore, Mwonzora said, the letter that was sent by the rebels supposedly summoning the MDC president and party chairman Lovemore Moyo to appear before their political formations’ tribunal had been penned by Biti, but did not, curiously, indicate that there would be an “independent” tribunal.
“They did not disclose the names of the tribunal to us. The letter they wrote did not contain the venue nor did it include the time it was going to take place,” Mwonzora said, adding, “Any person would have known that it must contain those important details.
“They are in serious contempt of court. If the High Court looks seriously at this matter, it is a criminal and disciplinary matter”.
Another lawyer who preferred anonymity for professional reasons also told the Daily News that the court could find the renewal team in contempt of court.
“The court can actually find them in contempt of court. However, Tendai (Biti) is a brilliant lawyer and can (presumably) argue his case,” he said. “Otherwise why would they proceed knowing the repercussions?
“They (renewal team) do not have grassroots support and they know that the only way they can beat Tsvangirai is to outsmart him through the courts,” he said.
Makusha Mugabe, a political activist based in the United Kingdom, argued that while Madhuku was busy arguing his case before Justice Zhou, he would have been fully aware that his clients were conducting the hearing.
“Surely, this is contemptuous of the justice system, or at the very least, an attempt to defeat the effect of legal proceedings in the High Court through technicalities,” he said.
But Jacob Mafume, the renewal team spokesperson, claims that at the time their tribunal was convened at Mandel Training Centre on June 27, the High Court had not ruled on the matter.
“At the time of the hearing, neither the tribunal nor the MDC had been called to appear before any court nor had they been served with any order to stop proceedings,” he said in a statement issued on Friday.
“At the time of writing, neither the tribunal nor the MDC have (sic) been served with any order to stop proceedings. It came to our attention that four individuals namely Tendai Biti, Sekai Holland, Elton Mangoma and Sam Sipepa-Nkomo had been taken to court to interdict them from conducting hearings for the suspended members.
“The applicants sought also to interdict the resolutions of the Mandel meeting pending a determination of the matter.
“The court, we are advised and made to believe by our lawyer Professor Lovemore Madhuku, rejected the application to interdict the resolutions of the Mandel meeting and those stand.”
Mafume said they believed the interdict affected only the cited members.
“The four were not conducting the hearings but it was an independent tribunal which was doing the process. The chairman of the tribunal was not cited nor was the party in this matter,” he said.