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Zimbabwe Court Rules in Favor of Opposition Leader


A high court judge Friday dismissed an effort to suspend the leader of Zimbabwe's main opposition party. The application was brought before the court by a faction of the Movement for Democratic Change.

Dismissing the application, Judge Yunus Ormejee ruled that MDC Deputy Secretary General Gift Chimanikire, who made the application, could not act on behalf of the party.

The court application is the latest development in what analysts see as an irreconcilable schism in the opposition party. The division started when MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai vetoed a vote for participation in last month's senate election by the party's national council.

Mr. Tsvangirai questioned the wisdom of participating in an election whose result, he said, was predetermined. The MDC has participated in three national elections since its founding in 1999. It has rejected the results of all three, citing gross irregularities and violence.

There has also been a dispute within the MDC over the re-introduction of a senate in the Zimbabwe parliament. Mr. Tsvangirai questioned the value of the re-introduction when the government had functioned without it for more than 10 years. He dismissed it as an exercise by President Robert Mugabe to reward ruling party loyalists who failed to make it into parliament.

At first, all the MDC was against the return of the senate. But once the ruling ZANU-PF party used its parliamentary majority to change the constitution to allow the re-introduction, some senior members of the party, including Mr. Chimanikire, changed their minds and decided not to fight it.

Some members of the opposition also argued in favor of participating in the November poll, saying not participating would be tantamount to surrendering to Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF PARTY. The MDC fielded 26 candidates to fight for the 50 seats at stake and won in seven constituencies.

Last month, the MDC's pro-senate faction announced the party's disciplinary committee had suspended Mr. Tsvangirai for acting unconstitutionally pending an appearance before the committee. Mr. Tsvangirai defied the suspension. He convened a party national council meeting that set aside the suspension. In response, Mr. Chimanikire applied to the court to enforce the suspension. The judge said his application was overtaken by events since the national council has the power to make the ruling it did.

In a related incident, Paul Themba-Nyathi, spokesman for the pro-senate faction, told VOA that his passport was seized Friday by immigration officials as he returned from a visit to South Africa. He is the second person to have his passport seized in as many days. The passport seizures follow a constitutional amendment earlier this year that allows the government to restrict movement of Zimbabweans who may, according to the amendment, harm the national interest of the state. On Thursday the authorities seized the passport of independent newspaper publisher Trevor Ncube on his arrival from South Africa.

Mr. Themba-Nyathi said he could not comment on the High Court ruling as he had not read the judgment. Selby Hwacha, the lawyer for Mr. Tsvangirai, told VOA that the ruling will make it difficult for the pro-senate faction to approach the courts since the judge said the party has structures to deal with any disagreements.

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