THE hearing of the contest over ownership of the MDC-T claimed by Mr Nelson Chamisa and Dr Thokozani Khupe, who are fighting over the party’s name, symbols and logo, failed to kick off yesterday at the High Court after the judge recused himself.
The matter was referred back to Judge President George Chiweshe for reallocation.
Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Martin Makonese who was supposed to preside over the case, recused himself after lawyers representing the Chamisa-led camp raised allegations against him. Dr Khupe’s deputy, Mr Obert Gutu, said Mr Chamisa’s camp made serious allegations against the judge whom they accused of being aligned to Zanu-PF and therefore likely to make a biased judgment.
“We had come for the commencement of the trial today (yesterday) but before it kicked off we were advised by our lawyers and lead counsel Professor Lovemore Madhuku that the applicants, who are being represented by Advocate Thabani Mpofu, made serious allegations against Justice Martin Makonese, saying he is a Zanu-PF judge. They alleged that he has Zanu-PF links and that at one time he ran for a political office under the Zanu-PF ticket,” he said.
“All those allegations were spurious, unfounded, malicious and downright lie and we find it very strange.”
Mr Gutu said the integrity of the judge as an individual and the institution of the judiciary was under attack.
“We instructed our lawyers to object to that attack on the judge because there is need to respect our courts, the judges in this country. Sadly, our colleagues on the other side are making serious allegations on the integrity of the Honourable Justice Makonese and obviously, to his credit, the judge saw it fit to then refer the matter to the Judge President who is ultimately responsible for allocating High Court cases,” he said.
Adv Mpofu said the matter had been referred to Justice Chiweshe for reallocation. He, however, refused to comment on the allegations attributed to his clients.
The Chamisa-led MDC-T faction had appealed at the Supreme Court against former High Court judge Justice Francis Bere’s decision allowing Dr Khupe and her followers to use the opposition party’s logo and emblem.
The Supreme Court ruled that both factions should continue using the same party name, symbol and logo until the High Court determines the legitimate successor to the late Mr Morgan Tsvangirai.
In May, Supreme Court judge Justice Paddington Garwe — sitting with Justices Mary Anne Gowora and Antonia Guvava — referred the matter back to the High Court for determination on who is the legitimate party leader.
Justice Garwe partially allowed the appeal, but temporarily placed Dr Khupe and Mr Chamisa on an equal footing pending a full trial by the High Court to establish the leader.