The formation of Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change headed by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara expelled three of its legislators on Monday who had been accused of indiscipline and insubordination, pointing to vacancies in the House of Assembly.

The MDC formation issued a statement saying that after "carefully analyzing the evidence" against the lawmakers, the party's disciplinary committee voted to expel Abednico Bhebhe of Nkayi South, Njabuliso Mguni of Lupane East and Normal Mpofu of Bulilima East.

All three constituencies are in the Matabeleland region, which was a stronghold for the MDC formation when it splintered off the main formation of now-Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in 2005 over the issue of whether to contest elections for a new senate.

Also expelled was executive member Alex Goosein, a prominent white commercial farmer in Matabeleland North province. Maxwell Dube of Tsholotsho South constituency in Matabeleland North was found guilty of a lesser charge, then cautioned and pardoned.

The move leaves the Mutambara formation with seven seats in the House of Assembly and six Senate seats. The vacant seats must be filled in by-elections, but parties to the power-sharing pact of September 2008 are barred from contesting them.

However, independent politicians are not bound by that agreement, leading to speculation that the expelled politicians might run to win back their own seats as independents.

The dissidents were hauled before a disciplinary hearing on July 4 but walked out alleging the proceeding was unfair and biased.

Disciplinary committee chairman Lyson Mlambo told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the party will soon notify Parliament of the vacancies. Bhebhe, responding, called the committee's action illegal therefore without effect.

House Speaker Lovemore Moyo of the Tsvangirai MDC formation confirmed that the expelled legislators can contest as independents in the coming by-elections.

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