Gift Phiri 27 January 2017
HARARE – House of Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda has announced that
investigations by an influential committee of Members of Parliament into a
threat to take down opposition MDC MPs on the eve of the opening of
Parliament were underway.
Mudenda told the lower house that the Privileges Committee – in line with
Standing Rules and Orders – was probing the extremely disturbing affair.
The vile threats – which were sent online from a sender called “Hitman” –
warned the MDC legislators to behave throughout the official opening of
the Fourth Session of the Eighth Parliament of Zimbabwe in October last
The threatening message on MDC MPs phone read: “You may have false
immunity as a group, but remember after that you will be alone again. You
will be remembered for a few days, after that you are history. Certa
(Latin for `sure’).”
MDC vice president and Kuwadzana East legislator Nelson Chamisa and Mkoba
MP Amos Chibaya were among the many opposition MPs who received the
messages – apparently aimed at dissuading them from booing and
embarrassing President Robert Mugabe.
The MPs refused to contact the police after receiving the malicious
communication, saying the law enforcement agency had previously dismally
failed to investigate threats made against them earlier.
MDC members were forced to sit quietly after the 92-year-old opened his
speech, while supportive members of the ruling Zanu PF party regularly
clapped at intervals.
It was the third time the so-called “Hitman” dispatched messages
threatening MDC legislators, who demanded a parliamentary probe arguing
that the intimidation should be taken seriously especially following the
disappearance of activist Itai Dzamara.
“The chair would like to inform the House that the Privileges Committee
appointed to investigate allegedly threatening messages sent to some
members of the MDC-T party is continuing with its inquiry,” Mudenda told
the House of Assembly on Tuesday.
“In this regard, all MPs who received the allegedly threatening messages
must approach the assistant clerk of Parliament, … Johane Gandiwa with
any information or evidence which may assist the investigations …so that
we can conclude the investigations accordingly,” he said amid inaudible
interjections from opposition backbenches
The Privileges Committee is being chaired by Chief Fortune Charumbira
while MDC MPs Paurina Mpariwa, Gift Chimanikire and Zanu PF colleagues
Ziyambi Ziyambi, Mlilo Ntandoyenkosi and Chakona Paradzai also constitute
Mudenda said the committee was probing the source of the alleged
harassment to determine whether the threats directly or indirectly
constitute contempt of Parliament. The probe findings are expected in
March and the committee is expected to make appropriate recommendations.
Perpetrators, if found, could be charged with sending a letter or
communication causing anxiety or distress.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights has condemned such “an act of cowardice
that is not only unlawful and can be prosecuted, but also an infringement
on the right to freedom of expression and conscience protected in the
Constitution whether a person is inside or outside Parliament.”
Several legislators have spoken out about the abuse the opposition
legislators have regularly faced saying the incidents were “extremely
concerning” and that intimidation of any kind should never be tolerated.