Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara whose position is shaky in his smaller MDC faction today suspended six officials including three MPs in a desperate move to contain a growing rebellion against him.
MPs Norman Mpofu, Abednico Bhebhe and Njabuliso Mguni where served with the suspension letters on Friday and they could lose their seats in parliament.
They are accused of “publicly castigated leaders of the party“ and “dismantling our party structures” .
The three MPs are accused along with former St Mary’s MP Job Sikhala, white commercial farmer Alex Goosen and national youth chairman Gift Nyandoro of “addressing public meetings denouncing the party and the leadership”.
Said Lyson Mlambo, chairman of the party’s disciplinary committee.“In some cases, these individuals have been dismantling our party structures and lying to our members that there is now one MDC, headed by Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, yet the truth of the matter is there is no such thing,”
Mutambara is in turn accused of putting the name of the party into disrepute through his reckless utterances in the press.
Action against Bhebhe had been expected. The MP invited the wrath of Mutambara after he was accused of voting with legislators from Tsvangirai’s larger MDC faction in elections for Speaker of Parliament, effectively scuttling plans to install Paul Themba Nyathi in the position with the support of Zanu PF MPs.
Bhebhe was also controversially nominated for a ministerial post in the unity government by Tsvangirai, drawing sharp opposition from Mutambara and Tsvangirai’s own officials. He was eventually dropped.
Mlambo said Bhebhe would not be facing questions about how he voted in the secret ballot election for Speaker.
“Bhebhe is one of those members who have publicly castigated leaders of the party,” Mlambo told New Zimbabwe.com. “The party has a grievance procedure to be followed, but if somebody decides not to follow that procedure, and wash dirty linen in public, we don’t think that is proper.”
Mlambo would not speculate about the sanctions the members face if found guilty, but promised that “as soon as the national disciplinary committee is ready, they will be called to defend”.
The Mutambara MDC has 10 MPs and six Senators in the House of Assembly. None of the parties has an absolute majority in parliament and the party is seen as the king maker, able to tilt voting in favour of either Zanu PF or the Tsvangirai faction.
A power sharing agreement signed between the two rival MDC factions and President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party states that if any of the signatories to the agreement wishes to recall an MP, it can do so without facing a challenge from the other parties.
That in effect would allow Mutambara’s party to cause by-elections to replace the three MPs in which Zanu PF and the Tsvangirai MDC will not participate. The deposed legislators can still run for re-election as members of another party or as independents.
Mutambara, an abrasive former student leader and NASA rocket scientist, became leader of the MDC faction in February 2006 — a year after an acrimonious split in the former oppositon party triggered by differences over whether to participate in Senate elections in November 2005.