The Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) led by Nelson Chamisa appears to have shifted its stance on the legitimacy of Sengezo Tshabangu with the party acknowledging the existence of two CCC parties, one led by Chamisa and another led by Tshabangu.
This marks a departure from the CCC’s previous position of labelling Tshabangu as an imposter.
Tshabangu, who called himself the opposition party’s interim Secretary General, and used his position to recall CCC representatives in parliament and local authorities, was initially labelled as an unknown individual by the CCC.
The CCC claimed there were now two CCC parties during the latest High Court hearing on Wednesday in Harare, where Tshabangu sought to prevent the recalled CCC MPs and councillors from participating in Saturday’s by-elections.
Tshabangu’s lawyer, Lewis Uriri, argued that the 14 MPs should not contest in the December 9 by-elections under the CCC name, as they were recalled from it and that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) should not have accepted nomination papers from recalled members without confirmation of their restoration to the party.
Initially, the recalled MPs and Councillors had approached the Harare High Court on an urgent basis, requesting the court set aside their recalls and declare that Speaker of the National Assembly in Parliament, Jacob Mudenda, and President of the Senate, Mabel Chinomona, had erred in carrying out the recalls because Tshabangu was an imposter.
The CCC, on the other hand, was not a party to the proceedings in this matter because it was neither an applicant nor a respondent in the application filed by 14 of the recalled MPs, who cited Tshabangu, the Speaker of the National Assembly and ZEC as respondents.
Tshabangu stated that because the recalled MPs’ application implied he is an imposter, he expected them to include the CCC political party or “at the very least” cite it as an accompanying co-applicant, and that their request is ineffective unless they name the political party they represent.
The request by the recalled MPs was dismissed by High Court Justice Judge Munamato Mutevedzi on 4 November 2023 and they further appealed at the Supreme Court, which heard the appeal on December 1, 2023 and also dismissed it by a bench led by Justice Joseph Musakwa.
In the most recent hearing, held on December 6, 2023, the CCC party led by Chamisa sought to be admitted to the proceedings, while Tshabangu’s lawyer denied that, insisting it was bogus.
“There was one CCC before Munamato Mutevedzi (the judge who dismissed the MPs appeal before the High Court); not two,” Uriri said, adding there was an allegation that Tshabangu was an impostor.
“That allegation failed. This court found the recall was not false. This court having validated that recall, it was not proper for them to file papers under the same party,” Uriri said.
Uriri also added that the Constitution submitted by CCC was “a fabrication”.
Alec Muchadehama, who represented the recalled MPs said Tshabangu’s request has been overtaken by events.
“Ballot papers have already been printed and sent to constituencies in readiness for the election.
“All systems are now in place for the election to be heard. To take submissions already overtaken by events will be pointless,” he said.
Agency Gumbo, representing CCC, argued that Tshabangu’s application must fail as it was “full of misrepresentations and fake lies.”
“A litigant who brings false information to the court to seek protection should be frowned upon,” Gumbo said.
High Court Judge Justice Never Katiyo who was handling the case had to interject stating that the lawyers were contradicting themselves.
“By your submission, you seem to be recognising Tshabangu as not bogus but a member who belongs to another party also called CCC. If there was no constitution, why then did you call him an impostor?”
The judge also asked why when the recalled MPs challenged their recall, only one political party was before Judge Mutevedzi, not two as was being claimed now.
Justice Katiyo said the parties were making it difficult for him because there was nothing much to distinguish the two CCCs.
“How should I distinguish these two political parties for the purposes of proceedings? What names should I give them because twins, even though identical, have different names?” the judge asked .
Tshabangu’s lawyer in his closing submissions, also said the respondents were seeking to confuse the court.
“They are now disputing this saying its two different parties which go by the same name yet in fact they called Tshabangu an impostor in a case before (High Court Judge Justice) Mutevedzi and in a case before the Supreme Court. They even categorically stated that they had reported him to the police yet now they are making allegations of two political parties,” Uriri said.