Zimbabwe court rejects opposition MPs appeal for lost seats

HARARE - A court rejected on Saturday the appeal by 14 opposition lawmakers in Zimbabwe claiming an impostor posing as a party official had them disqualified by parliament.

By-elections are due to take place on December 7 to replace the 14 and one other MP who did not appeal.

As a result, the ruling ZANU-PF party, which won a disputed election in August, could gain the two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution.

In early October a letter penned by a man named Sengezo Tshabangu, claiming to be interim secretary general of the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change party, claimed the 15 lawmakers had ceased to be party members. 

CCC leader Nelson Chamisa asked the speaker of parliament to disregard the message littered with grammatical mistakes because Tshabangu was not a CCC member, the party had no secretary general, and had not expelled or recalled any MP. 

But the electoral commission received a letter from parliamentary speaker Jacob Mudenda, of ZANU-PF, declaring the seats vacant. 

Harare High Court Judge Munamato Mutevedzi said, "The applicants failed to produce their party constitution or any document which showed that Tshabangu could possibly not have held," the post of party secretary general.

"It was simply their word that he wasn’t."

CCC spokesperson Promise Mkwananzi said the ruling left "no further doubt about the compromised state of our judiciary".

"The judiciary had the opportunity ... to extricate themselves from the jaws of capture and to prove that they are a credible course to remedy, and that even the opposition can turn to them for recourse. They failed," he posted on 'X', formerly Twitter.

Mkwananzi said lawyers were still "studying the judgment to map the way forward".

The case is likely to worsen political tensions that have been running high in the southern African country since an August 23 vote that international observers said fell short of democratic standards. 

Chamisa, 45, lost the presidential race to incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa, 81, of ZANU-PF.

The ruling party, in power since independence in 1980 also secured a majority in parliament but fell a few lawmakers short of the number required to change the constitution. 

The CCC says more than a dozen people affiliated with it, including MPs and councillors, have been arrested on spurious charges since the elections. 

str-cld/bp/giv

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