HARARE – Parliament has ignored the opposition MDC party’s plea for guarantees that protect their MPs who are in hiding for fear of persecution over recent violent protests triggered by government’s decision to increase fuel prices.
Last month, labour and civil rights organisations called for the stay-away when President Emmerson Mnangagwa raised fuel prices by nearly 150 percent.
The protests turned violent when government reacted by unleashing armed soldiers and police on civilians throughout the country.
Following the protests, several opposition MPs and labour officials were arrested, while others went into hiding to escape the government clampdown, with lawyers and human rights groups saying at least 12 people were killed and 78 others treated for bullet wounds during the protests.
Three MDC Alliance MPs now face expulsion from Parliament for absconding the august House without approval from the Speaker.
The three — Charlton Hwende (Kuwadzana East), Godfrey Sithole (Chitungwiza North), and Joanah Mamombe (Harare West) — are left with about seven parliamentary sitting days for them to show face in the National Assembly or lose their seats.
While National Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda said he had dealt with the matter after the MDC leader in Parliament Thabitha Khumalo wrote to him, the party’s chief whip Propser Mutseyami said the issue was still outstanding.
“Nothing substantial was done by the speaker regarding the guarantees that we requested because he only wrote a letter of confirmation for MPs who were on parliamentary business on the day leaving out the three’s case,” Mutseyami said.
Responding to enquiries on how he had responded to the MDC’s plea, Mudenda refused to give details curtly saying “I have since dealt with that one”.
Mutseyami however, said the MDC was going to continue to engage Mudenda on the issue in a bid to retain their seats.
“We want Parliament to guarantee that the MPs will not be harassed when they come so we are not going to rest because he is the principal of the august House”
The three legislators went into hiding during the January riots after security agents went after them, accusing them of having masterminded the disturbances.
In a February 4 letter to the country’s security forces, clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda confirmed that five legislators , Happymore Chidziva (Highfield West) Goodrich Chimbaira (Zengeza East) and James Chidhakwa (Tafara/Mabvuku), Job Sikhala (Zengeza West) and Costa Machingauta (Budiriro) who were also on police wanted list were on parliamentary business when the protests occurred.
The MPs were in Kadoma for an induction workshop held by the parliamentary portfolio committee on Defence, Home Affairs and security services from January 13 to 16.
“Kindly note that the 13th and 16th January were travelling days and the workshop itself was held on the 14th and 15th …” Chokuda said before he attached the attendance register to prove his point.
MPs arrested and released on bail include Amos Chibaya (Mkoba), Settlement Chikwinya (Mbizo), Winnie Kankuni (Sunningdale), Lloyd Mukapiko (Redcliff), Rusty Markham (Harare North) and Livingston Chiminya (Chiwundura).