May 8, 2020 / 7:50 AM / a month ago

Zimbabwe opposition boycotts parliament after members dismissed

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s main opposition party on Thursday boycotted parliamentary proceedings to protest against the dismissal of four of its legislators at the behest of a faction opposed to the party leadership.

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Nelson Chamisa attends a national prayer meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, February 7, 2019, REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

On March 31, the country’s Supreme Court declared that Nelson Chamisa’s leadership of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was illegitimate and ordered the party to hold an election to replace him within three months.

A majority of MDC leaders have rallied behind Chamisa, arguing that the leadership issue was settled when the party held a congress in 2019 to choose a new executive.

But a faction opposed to Chamisa has been emboldened by the court ruling and this week asked parliament to eject four senior MDC members, all allies of Chamisa.

Their dismissal should trigger a by-election but the new coronavirus outbreak makes this uncertain. The pandemic also makes it difficult for the MDC to organise protests.

The MDC said parliament, which is controlled by the ruling ZANU-PF party, had taken sides in the fight to control the opposition. The MDC suspended participation in parliament while it consults members on its next move.

“For the avoidance of doubt this means that no MDC member shall attend any parliamentary committee or the sitting of parliament or any official business of parliament until such time as a decision is made,” the MDC said.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF already has a majority in parliament and can pass legislation without any hindrance.

Chamisa, 42, narrowly lost the 2018 presidential election to Mnangagwa. He maintains Mnangagwa rigged the vote and does not recognise his presidency.

The MDC, which has split three times since its formation in 1999, frequently accuses ZANU-PF of fanning divisions in its ranks. ZANU-PF denies the charge.

Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Giles Elgood

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