Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court on Thursday barred President Robert Mugabe from declaring Mwenezi East constituency vacant before a High Court hearing scheduled for next week following the expulsion of House of Assembly Member Kudakwashe Bhasikiti from the ruling Zanu-PF.
Bhasikiti and several other senior Zanu PF officials were fired on May 21 this year for their alleged involvement in expelled former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s alleged plot to topple President Mugabe.
But Mujuru and her allies have dismissed the allegations as baseless. Even one of Mujuru’s strongest critic, Information minister Jonathan Moyo, seemed to walk back on the accusation.
In an interview with the BBC’s HARD talk programme in May, Moyo dismissed the allegations as “political banter.”
Bhasikiti, Ray Kaukonde (Marondera Central) and David Butau (Mbire) lost their seats after Zanu-PF wrote to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda, notifying him that the trio no longer represented its interests as envisaged by Section 129 of the Constitution.
Announcing the expulsion, acting Speaker of the National Assembly, Melody Dziva, who was standing in for Mudenda, said Parliament had received notification from Zanu-PF that the three had ceased to belong to the party.
Through his lawyers, Tendai Biti Law Chambers, Bhasikiti had filed a review application at the High Court arguing that due process was never followed in his dismissal from the party and that the decision be nullified.
Mr. Mugabe and Zanu-PF are listed as first and second respondents in the court application.
Bhasikiti, in his founding affidavit, argued that his constitutional rights were infringed and that the decision should be nullified. “The decision to expel me, taken by the second respondent in a meeting chaired by the first respondent, is null and void. For starters, I was never subjected to the benefit of due process,”
Part of the affidavit reads, “I was not charged of any offence and have not received any notice of any charge against me. I have not appeared before any disciplinary hearing, I have not given my side of the story. I do not even know why I have been expelled.”
Bhasikiti said he had a right to be given reasons for the expulsion. He argued that the Zanu PF Politburo that fired him had no authority to make such a decision. “I was expelled by the Politburo … It does not have any powers of expulsion. Thus the decision to expel me is grossly irregular in that the Politburo that expelled me does not have such powers in terms of the respondent’s (Zanu-PF) constitution,” he said.
But before the matter was sat down, Zanu-PF moved swiftly to have him booted out of parliament.
Dziva refused to entertain the High Court challenge saying: "With regards to the same matter, I must also notify this House that I have received an urgent chamber application filed at the High Court by Hon. Bhasikiti and Hon. Butau seeking to bar the Speaker from declaring the seat vacant in terms of Section 129 (1)(k) of the Constitution, but that cannot stop the Speaker from exercising his duty in terms of the Constitution as he is not bound by a court application filed as the order sought has not yet been granted.”
Dziva added that, "It is vital that at this point I mention that the notification to the Speaker by the party concerned that a member has ceased to represent its interests in the National Assembly and Parliament is all that is required at law to create a vacancy and the Speaker to declare the seat vacant."
The full Constitutional Court bench agreed with Bhasikiti though that Mr. Mugabe should be stopped from declaring the seat vacant until the High Court finalizes his expulsion case.
Biti described the ruling as important as it demonstrates that the judiciary is serious about upholding the rule of law.
Bhasikiti told VOA that the ruling is a relief to ruling Zanu-PF members who are under siege for baseless allegations.