The Zanu PF-led government on Tuesday displayed its repressive and authoritarian nature by summoning anti-riot police to Parliament who manhandled Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) lawmakers for protesting the recall of 15 of their colleagues.
The violent scenes in Parliament unfolded after Mkoba MP, also CCC Chief Whip, Amos Chibaya, questioned the Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda about recalling 15 of their members on the instruction of one Sengezo Tshabangu on October 3, 2023, while ignoring a letter from the party leader, Nelson Chamisa stating who had the rightful power to effect recalls.
15 of the recalled lawmakers are National Assembly members while nine are senators.
Chibaya argued that recalling CCC legislators violated Section 68 of the Constitution, which requires the Speaker to act lawfully, reasonably, and fairly but their discourse was overshadowed by the use of force by armed police.
The CCC MPs protested the recalls and defied the Speaker who ordered them to leave the legislative chamber.
Police were called, but CCC legislators refused to leave until anti-riot police arrived to remove over 100 opposition MPs.
According to Chibaya, several MPs were hurt during the melee after they were struck with batons, while others were left with torn clothes.
Commenting on that action, Critical Studies Scholar, Dr Khanyile Mlotshwa, said the use of force to deal with opposition showed Zanu PF is “desperate” and was now “using the police to ‘police’ Parliament.”
“Althusser speaks of ideological state apparatus, which ironically Parliament is part of, and repressive state apparatus. When the ideological state apparatuses go into crisis, the State always falls back on repression. That is what happened in Parliament on Tuesday,” he said.
Dr Mlotshwa added, “It was a dark day for whatever remains of Zimbabwe’s democracy,” and questioned whether police would be called to Parliament each time a heated debate took place.
“Parliament is for debates, it’s a respectable house where laws are made and adhered to, such as the Constitution, and Parliament’s own Standing Orders. Parliament must inspire people to engage and not use force but what we saw playing out in Parliament leaves a lot to be desired.”
Meanwhile, the opposition party described the Speaker’s summons of anti-riot police and subsequent beating of their MPs as a “cowardly act.”
“This kind of behaviour must be stopped to prevent potential instability in our country. The regime in Harare should not mistake our peaceful demeanour for weakness,” CCC said while the party leader said Zimbabwe is in a deep political crisis due to the flawed and disputed August 23 election.
“Partisan capture of state institutions is criminal. Zanu PF is not Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is not Zanu PF Parliament is supposed to make laws, not break them. Zimbabwe shall be free! A luta continua!” Chamisa said.
Mt. Pleasant MP Fadzai Mahere concurred legislators have a duty to speak in Parliament for the constituencies who elected them but that obligation cannot be fulfilled when debate is hampered by armed riot police.
“What kind of Parliament uses armed riot police to silence a debate on the constitutionality of illegitimate recalls? Parliament should be making laws, not breaking them. We insist on using the force of our intellect to win debates. Put your guns and baton sticks down. Why are you desecrating the August House?” she posed,
“Anti-riot police were summoned to beat us for raising points of order, points of clarity and points of national interest especially relating to the rule of law and the Constitution. You can’t purport to recall MPs on the basis of a fake letter when you have an authentic letter that was first in time before you,” she said.
Mahere said Zanu PF continues to attack the will of the people and violate their choice made on the August 23 vote.
“This is unparliamentary. We represent the people – not dodgy partisan political positions,” said the legislator.