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Sunday, 22 December 2013 00:00
Sunday Mail Reporter

MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, under pressure from some Western diplomats, is frantically trying to convince some senior party members to gang up against secretary-general Mr Tendai Biti following his decision to agree to represent the former Governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr Gideon Gono, in a constitutional case filed by Dr Munyaradzi Kereke.

About two weeks ago, Dr Kereke filed a constitutional application citing the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission as the first respondent and Dr Gono as the second respondent in a case in which he is accusing the Commission of acting unconstitutionally by allegedly failing to probe allegations of abuse of office, corruption and theft against Dr Gono.

Following the filing of the case, Dr Gono, who is the Zanu-PF Senator-elect for Buhera, last week engaged lawyer Mr Biti to fight the allegations levelled against him by Dr Kereke, a move that has not been well received by some Western diplomats who would have preferred to see the MDC-T using the former RBZ boss to tarnish the image of Zanu-PF.

The MDC-T was founded and is funded by the British government together with the US administration. As a result, Western diplomats in the country play a key role in the affairs of the MDC-T.

It is understood that the pressure from the diplomats added to Mr Tsvangirai’s fury as he already had been angered by the decision that was taken by his subordinate without first making consultations with the party’s leadership.

Reports say an infuriated Mr Tsvangirai over the past few days has been making frantic calls to some senior party members, including Mr Douglas Mwonzora, Mr Chamisa, Ms Thokozani Khupe and Mr Lovemore Moyo, trying to convince them to condemn Mr Biti’s decision to defend Dr Gono in court.

Mr Tsvangirai is said to be arguing that while legally Mr Biti as a lawyer can represent any client of his choice, from a political point of view, the move was ill-timed and ill-advised.

MDC-T spokesperson Mr Mwonzora confirmed that indeed he had discussed the issue about Mr Biti representing Dr Gono with Mr Tsvangirai after it had been reported in the Press. Party organising secretary Mr Nelson Chamisa would neither deny nor confirm the tiff, referring all questions to Mr Luke Tamborinyoka, who is Mr Tsvangirai’s spokesperson.

Added Mr Chamisa: “It is better for Luke Tamborinyoka to comment on the issue.” Although Mr Tamborinyoka was not reachable yesterday, highly placed MDC-T sources privy to the ongoing power wrangles within the party, which is still smarting from an embarrassing thrashing during the July 31 harmonised elections, insist that Mr Tsvangirai is calling for Mr Biti to be held to account.

“Soon after the news broke out that Mr Biti would be representing Gono, there was a lot of traffic from some Western diplomats calling our leader expressing reservations over the move by the secretary- general which the majority view as ill-timed and ill-advised. However, even before the calls from these diplomats, Mr Tsvangirai was already livid at the decision.

He was furious that Biti took the decision without even consulting the party leadership despite the political undertones and overtones that will be brought about by this case.

“Mr Tsvangirai was asking why Biti was creating problems for the party. Although this is a constitutional case, from our standpoint this is a political case and we can’t just be too simplistic about it, considering that Biti is our secretary-general. The least Biti could have done is to consult the leadership rather than acting as a lone ranger. He should have taken advice on the political implications of this case,” said one top MDC-T official who refused to be named for fear of victimisation.

A prominent constitutional lawyer based in Harare who refused to be named for professional reasons said: “It’s Dr Gono’s right to chose a lawyer of his choice and it’s fine for my learned friend Biti to choose any client of his and I actually wish Biti the best. He is a good lawyer.

“However, after so many years in Government and away from practice, I think Biti may be rusty and he has his work cut out because he is going to have to punch above his weight in each round.

“Remember also that my learned friend in the past handled mainly criminal cases and this constitutional case may present some challenges. The criminal court is different from the constitutional court where he is going to come before a full bench of nine judges. It’s possible that Mr Biti might opt to instruct other advocates to handle this matter for him.

“Like I told you, Mr Biti is a good lawyer, but I think on this one, he is acting like a bantamweight boxer trying to go for the heavyweight division. Let’s see how things turn out.” Another lawyer, however, said the legal fraternity in Zimbabwe was a very “thin market” where specialising in one area is not common “so Biti should be able to find his way” in handling this constitutional case.

Efforts to get a comment from Mr Biti proved fruitless as he was unreachable on cellphone. However, he told the media last week that it was his right to choose clients of his choice.

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