The judgment concerns the leadership dispute in the Movement for Democratic Change formerly led by the late Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC), who died in February 2018.[1]

The judgement was delivered a day after the 21-day national lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19 began.

History of the Case

The case against Nelson Chamisa was brought by a member of a rival faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).[2]

The case was brought before the courts by Elias Mashavira, Elias Mudzuri, Thokozani Khupe, and Douglas Mwonzora. It was an appeal against the entire judgment of the High Court, sitting at Harare, handed down on 8 May 2019.[3]

Supreme Court Decision

On 31 March 2020, all three judges sitting on the Supreme Court bench, Bharat Patel, Paddington Garwe, and Antonio Guvava reached a unanimous decision regarding the case.[3]

The Supreme Court ruled that Chamisa’s leadership of the main opposition MDC was illegitimate and ordered it to hold an election to replace him within three months. The court said the process that made Chamisa acting party president after Morgan Tsvangirai died in February 2018 was illegal and therefore null and void.[2]

The Supreme Court judgement confirmed the High Court decision that Thokozani Khupe, the Deputy President of MDC-T elected at its 2014 Congress, automatically became the Acting President on Tsvangirai's death in terms of the MDC Constitution.

The judgement also ordered the holding of an Extraordinary Congress to elect a new party President. The extraordinary congress would be convened by Thokozani Khupe in her capacity as MDC Acting President. If however, she failed or was unable to do so by the end of June 2020, the court ordered that the Congress should be convened by Morgen Komichi in his capacity as MDC National Chairperson by the end of July.

The judgment confirmed the May 2019 decision of the High Court that Tsvangirai's appointment in July 2016 of Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri as additional Deputy Presidents of MDC of was in breach of the MDC constitution and therefore null and void; that the appointment of Chamisa as Acting President of MDC by the party's National Council after Tsvangirai's death in February 2018 and his subsequent election of as President of MDC were likewise null and void; and that consequently, all appointments and/or reassignments and actions of Chamisa in his purported capacities as Deputy/Acting or incumbent President were also null and void.[1]



Chamisa accused the Supreme Court of bias and political meddling[4] whilst his deputy Tendai Biti declared the judgement by the court as a non-event.

Biti added that the Government of Zimbabwe was trying to usurp the MDC Alliance and said:

My position is that we as MDC we held our congress in May 2019. Nelson Chamisa is our president and our next congress is 2024. Full stop. The government is trying to usurp our party.


Khupe welcomed the judgement saying:

I welcome the Supreme Court ruling. It does not only carry something for me but it offers justice for everyone who believes in fairness and democracy. You must remember that this case was brought by our organising secretary from the Gokwe Sesame District. This ruling carries so much meaning. Above all, it is important for our democracy and to all who aspire to be leaders in society.


Role in subsequent decisions and politics

Expulsion of MPs and Councillors

Khupe exercised her power by recalling elected members of parliament and Councillors, causing them to lose their seats.

She expelled the legislators in terms of Section 129 (1) (K) of the constitution, which stipulates that “a member of parliament loses his/her seat if he/she ceases to be a member of the party under which they were elected.”[4]

The councillors were expelled in terms of Section 278 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, as read with Section (1) (k).[6]

Harvest House/Morgan Tsvangirai House Takeover

In June 2020, armed soldiers and police officers assisted the then Thokozani Khupe led MDC-T in taking over the party headquarters, the Morgan Richard Tsvangirai House, also known as Harvest House.[7] The directors of the building came out saying they were the owners, adding that Chamisa had the right of occupation and not anyone else.[8] Despite the directors' backing of Chamisa as the rightful tenant, Khupe and her party still occupied the building.

Tendai Biti, Lynnette Karenyi-Kore and other party officials, were arrested while trying to seek entry into the building. They spent the night in police custody before appearing in court.[9]

In September 2020, a group of youths under the banner of the MDC-T Harare Youth Assembly (2014) Harare led by Paul Gorekore took over the party headquarters in a bid to "to resolve the current crisis."[9]

The then Khupe led faction regained control of the headquarters after youths aligned to Douglas Mwonzora kicked out their colleagues on 27 October 2020.[10]

Full Judgement Download

The full MDC-T Supreme Court Judgement can be downloaded in pdf format here


  1. 1.0 1.1 SC 56-20 - MDC et al v Mashavira et al - Supreme Court judgment of 31st March 2020, Veritas, Published: 2020, Retrieved: January 7, 2021
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Alison Williams, Zimbabwe court rules Chamisa not legitimate leader of opposition, Reuters, Published: March 31, 2020, Retrieved: January 7, 2021
  3. 3.0 3.1 Judgment No. SC 56/2020 Civil Appeal No. SC 289/2019, Veritas, Published: No Date, Retrieved: January 7, 2021
  4. 4.0 4.1 Michelle Chifamba, Zimbabwe: Supreme Court decision leaves Thokozani Khupe’s MDC in disarray, The Africa Report, Published: December 30, 2020, Retrieved: January 7, 2021
  5. Fatima Bulla, ‘Supreme Court ruling a victory for democracy’, The Sunday Mail, Published: April 5, 2020, Retrieved: January 7, 2021
  6. Khupe axes 4 councillors, The Herald, Published: July 3, 2020, Retrieved: January 7, 2021
  7. Moses Matenga, Khupe goes for broke, grabs Harvest House, NewsDay, Published: June 5, 2020, Retrieved: January 7, 2020
  8. Moses Matenga, Harvest House owners back Chamisa, NewsDay, Published: June 15, 2020, Retrieved: January 7, 2021
  9. 9.0 9.1 Leopold Munhende, Drama As Chamisa Grabs Harvest House From Khupe,, Published: September 28, 2020, Retrieved: January 8, 2021
  10. Khupe regains Harvest House control, The Zimbabwe Daily, Published: October 28, 2020, Retrieved: January 7, 2021