A Zimbabwean High Court judge on Wednesday issued a provisional ruling ordering Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to cease exercising presidential duties of the Movement for Democratic Change formation he led before the presidency of the party was assumed by Welshman Ncube following his election in a January congress.
The court order handed down by High Court Justice Nicholas Ndou late Wednesday bars Mutambara, who has 10 days to appeal, from “purporting to be president of the MDC” until the High Court makes a ruling on a petition brought by a number of his supporters challenging Ncube’s election as president of the party.
The order in addition said Mutambara is "interdicted from exercising any function vested in the president of the Movement for Democratic Change and principal in the inclusive government pending the finalization of the matter," language that seemed to link the presidency of the party and the Mutambara's position within the governmental.
Mutambara has argued that the two aspects were not directly linked in the sense that in signing the 2008 Global Political Agreement underpinning the present government, he had accepted a personal responsibility that went beyond his position in the party.
Mutambara, said to be out of the country, could not be reached for comment.
Speaking for the Ncube-led MDC wing, spokesman Nhlanhla Dube said the party was happy with the High Court decision. "This basically confirms the known fact that Mutambara is no longer the leader of our party," he said
Political analyst Mqondobanzi Magonya told VOA reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that while Mutambara has the constitutional right to appeal, his chances of winning look slim. But he added: "I don't think, though, that [this] means Mugabe will now swear in Ncube."
Mugabe has declined to ask Mutambara to step down so that Ncube can be sworn in as deputy prime minister by virtue of his presidency of the MDC formation, citing potential legal issues that may or may not be resolved by the Bulawayo High Court.