HARARE, March 18 — The Zimbabwean Parliament has granted a request by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party to recall 21of its legislators who broke away to form a new party called the United Movement for Democratic Change (UMDC).

The seats were declared vacant Tuesday. Of the 21 parliamentarians, 17 are in the National Assembly while four are in the Senate.

Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda had late last year refrained from delivering a ruling on the matter following a request by the MDC, citing two cases challenging the leadership of the party which had been
lodged at the High Court.

Two camps, one led by MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, and another led by former MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti, claimed to be at the helm of the opposition party.

In delivering his ruling on the matter here Tuesday, the Speaker said it had been established that the two High Court cases had since been withdrawn and consequently the leadership of the opposition party was no
longer in question.

He said the MDC had also held a congress last year which resolved to expel the 21 from the party and to recall them from Parliament.

“Honourable Biti and others never approached the courts to declare their legitimacy as leaders of the opposition. The MDC congress was widely advertised and the affected never sought to interdict the holding
of the congress nor challenge it in so far as the outcome of the congress was concerned,” Mudenda said in his ruling.

“The notification to the Speaker is all that is required at law to create a vacancy and for the Speaker to declare seats vacant. I am obliged to declare the seats vacant. Consequently vacancies have arisen in the following constituencies.”

Some of the affected MPs in the house immediately walked out after Mudenda delivered his ruling, amidst jeering.

MDC Secretary-General Douglas Mwonzora wrote the letter of recall to Mudenda, but Biti unsuccessfully sought to have the Speaker nullify the request, arguing that the leadership of the party was still in question.

Mudenda said he would soon notify President Robert Mugabe about the vacancies so that by-elections are held to select new representatives for the affected constituencies.