Biti, MP for Harare East, was recalled from parliament by a faction of his former People’s Democratic Party (PDP) last week together with colleagues Settlement Chikwinya, Mbizo; William Madzimire, Kambuzuma; Sichelesile Mahlangu, Pumula; Regai Tsunga, Mutasa South; and Kucaca Phulu, Nkulumane; saying they had ceased to represent its interests.
Senator Risch tweeted on Monday that Mnangagwa’s government – increasingly growing authoritarian – was undermining the will of the people who voted the lawmakers into office.
“The recall of Biti and other members of parliament in Zimbabwe last week is yet another example of the systematic dismantling of the elected political opposition and subversion of the will of the Zimbabwean people,” he said.
Observers said the remarks by Senator Risch showed Washington’s increasing frustration with Mnangagwa over his intolerance to dissent and deteriorating record on democracy and human rights.
U.S. President Joe Biden renewed punitive travel and financial sanctions on Mnangagwa and his inner circle early this month, accusing them of “routinely intimidated and violently repressed citizens, including members of opposition political parties, union members, and journalists.”
Of particular concern is the so-called Patriot Bill, which seeks to punish Zimbabwe citizens who are deemed to have “connived with foreign governments” to undermine their country, among other offenses.
Legal watchdog Veritas noted on Monday that the expulsion of Biti and his colleagues remained an open question due to “confused and hotly disputed” facts.
“It is not clear that they have in fact ceased to belong to the PDP or the MDC-A, whichever was the party they represented in the last election – the facts are confused and hotly disputed,” Veritas said.
“Nor is it clear that the person who wrote the letter to the Speaker had the party’s authority to write it – a judgment of the High Court which may have given the person authority is under appeal so the matter is sub judice. Hence it is too early to say that the Members have lost their seats.”
The MDC Alliance has since last year lost more than 40 lawmakers and several councilors through recalls, mainly by Douglas Mwonzora and his rival MDC-T party, seen by critics as a Zanu-PF puppet.
Information minister Monica Mutswangwa was unavailable for comment but the government denies any involvement in the MDC Alliance recalls or attempts to shut down the democratic space.