WASHINGTON DC —
Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s wedding next Saturday has run into a potentially embarrassing legal snag and may actually not proceed if a High Court interdict being sought by his former lover is granted.
Mr. Tsvangirai is scheduled to tie the knot September 15 with Elizabeth Macheka at the glamorous Rain Tree Café in Harare.
But VOA can exclusively reveal that his former lover, Locardia Karimatsenga Tembo - whose relationship with the prime minister ended unceremoniously last year - will file an urgent application Friday seeking to stop the wedding, claiming she is still married to Mr. Tsvangirai.
"We want the court to interdict this marriage because Mr. Tsvangirai is still legally married to my client Locardia," said Jonathan Samkange, a respected attorney.
"If they get married, it automatically prejudices my client... It means Locardia can no longer be considered his wife," he added. "Once he has contracted a white wedding, the marriage to Locardia, which at the moment is potentially polygamous, ceases to be potentially polygamous."
Samkange filed a suit in the Harare Magistrates Court Wednesday on behalf of his client seeking spousal support of $15,000 per month from Tsvangirai, whose first wife, Susan, died in a horrific 2009 car crash.
She claims the prime minister married her under customary law on November 21 last year and never dissolved the union.
In her suit, the high-spending woman wants monthly payment for her upkeep including $3,000 for rent, $4,000 for groceries and $1,700 for beauty expenses, among other issues.
Severing his romance with Locardia last year, the Movement for Democratic Change leader cited meddling by Zanu PF and the spy agency – the Central Intelligence Organization.
But Samkange argues Tsvangirai did not follow procedure in line with "gupuro", a local Shona custom that requires a man to formally surrender his wife back to his in-laws if he no longer wants her.
"You don't simply say I've parted ways, you follow procedure. He has not gone back to them to say ‘I no longer want your daughter as my wife’," Samkange argued. "We call it gupuro; you don’t gupura someone by simply saying you are no longer my wife."
"How many people have said that in anger? You know that when angry, some people have told their children that 'you are no longer my child', and children as well may say 'you are no longer my father'. Does that stop one from being a father or a child because you’ve made that statement?," asked Samkange.
But Tsvangirai spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka dismissed both the spousal support suit and the pending wedding interdict application as desperate politics.
"The timing of the so-called civil suit is very curious, coming a week before the prime minister's wedding," Tamborinyoka told VOA.
He said his boss has not yet been informed of his former lover's intention to preclude his nuptial vows.
Rights lawyer Matshobana Ncube commented that Locardia's case had no merit.
Mr. Tsvangirai is currently believed to be paying maintenance for a young Bulawayo woman, Loreta Nyathi, with whom he had a brief romance that ended in the conception of a child in 2010.
He initially refused to take responsibility, but had to settle out of court fearing a humiliating legal battle.
The prime minister's new love, Macheka, is the daughter of senior Zanu PF member Joseph Macheka, who is accused by Mr. Tsvangirai's party supporters of spearheading political violence in Chitungwiza during his reign as mayor.
Commenting in an earlier interview about his controversial marriage, the prime minister told VOA that he cannot answer for Mr. Macheka’s actions.
He also defended his union, arguing that children cannot be "answerable for their parents’ sins."
“When you are going out to look for a woman,” he said, “you don’t ask for a political card or you don’t ask for their parents. You look at the woman and say I love this woman," he said.
Tsvangirai said he was sensitive to his supporters’ concerns, but added that he is happy with her.
“We have people from different political affiliations who have married across the political divide and I can tell you the speaker of parliament's wife is the daughter of Zanu PF’s Nyoni (Minister Sithembiso)," he said.
The prime minister was talking about House Speaker Lovemore Moyo, a chairman of his MDC formation, who is married to the Zanu PF official's daughter.