Zimbabwe's parliament has expelled 17 legislators who left the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party after a bout of infighting in the party last year, the national assembly's speaker said on Tuesday.
(READ MORE: Post-election outlook for Zimbabwe bleak)
The expulsion of the members, including former MDC secretary general and finance minister Tendai Biti, could further weaken the opposition's voice in parliament, where President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF enjoys a commanding majority.
Biti, an outspoken lawyer, was thrown out of the MDC by its leader Morgan Tsvangirai last April after his rebel MDC Renewal group failed in an attempt to oust Tsvangirai who has been at the helm of the MDC since its formation in 1999.
The opposition MDC party, which re-elected Tsvangirai as its leader in November, asked parliament early this month to expel Biti's group for having left the party, deepening the turmoil that has split the MDC.
Speaker of parliament Jacob Mudenda said Biti and his group did not challenge the request by the MDC, and announced their expulsion. The affected members were ushered out of parliament.
(READ MORE: Africa and west at odds over disputed Zimbabwe election)
Under Zimbabwe's constitution, if a member of parliament joins or forms another political party, their seat is declared vacant and a fresh election is called within 90 days.
Four more members in the upper Senate chamber were expected to suffer the same fate.
Jacob Mafume, spokesman for the MDC Renewal group said they would use legal means to challenge the speaker's decision.