IN the past two weeks, Zanu PF MPs have adopted a new tactic: Disrupt any parliamentary business or refuse to engage in any dealings with the opposition and, if possible, kick them out of parliamentary committees unless they legitimise President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
This raises a serious question: Why is Mnangagwa and his party so desperate for Nelson Chamisa and his MDC Alliance’s endorsement? Their desperation is such that they have turned the once respectable National Assembly into a circus and a very dangerous place for the opposition.
This all started a fortnight ago when Zanu PF legislators led by Chegutu West MP Dexter Nduna disrupted the sitting of the Tendai Biti-led Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which was looking at a very serious issue of graft in the Command Agriculture programme.
It was informative that the first disruption was made to prevent Sakunda Holdings executives from presenting evidence to the PAC over the unaccounted for US$3 billion in public funds the firm received for government’s much-vaunted Command Agriculture programme.
If the PAC wants answers about the money, the MDC must recognise Mnangagwa as a legitimately elected president, the Zanu PF MPs charged.
So Parliament and the public remain in the dark about how their money was used for a failed programme. That is how Zanu PF likes it, apparently, and the criminals and their beneficiaries get away scot-free.
Last week, Zanu PF MPs then started disrupting the sitting of more committees chaired by MDC legislators.
These include the Environment Committee, the Health Committee, the Media Committee, the Energy Committee, and the HIV/Aids thematic committee made up of senators and chaired by the MDC.
The MDC MPs and senators must first recognise Mnangagwa’s presidency if they want to carry out Parliament business, was the Zanu PF chorus.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi has since taken the issue further, refusing to take any questions from MDC legislators because they do not recognise Mnangagwa’s presidency.
The case for disruption
After decades of enduring long-time leader Robert Mugabe’s virtual dictatorship, the southern African nation hoped his removal from power via a coup in November 2017 would shake off its divided past, but Mnangagwa’s disputed victory only deepened political rifts.
After the election, Charles Laurie, head of country risk for Verisk Maplecroft, told Reuters news agency that: “There is a bleak pall over Mnangagwa’s win.”
So Mnangagwa’s bid to be seen as a legitimate, stable and trustworthy leader was gone, and with it his chances of ending Zimbabwe’s international pariah status and fixing an economy afflicted by high unemployment and foreign currency shortages among the many challenges.
Chamisa refused to bite when Mnangagwa offered him a position in Parliament as Leader of Opposition, perks and all, and insisted that the election had been stolen. By many indications, it is a view many in the diplomatic circles subscribe to.
So Mnangagwa has resorted to his default mode, force the opposition into submission, by any means necessary. The post-election killings of six civilians were not an aberration or a temporary lapse in judgment as in January this year, security forces killed another 17 during protests over a 150% fuel price hike. His administration has banned opposition gatherings or protests at every turn while police have beaten to a pulp those who attempted to meet.
Everywhere Mnangagwa looks, there is a signpost — talk to the opposition. There is a qualification too: Not the fake opposition under your Political Actors Dialogue, but the real one — read MDC.
So Mnangagwa, never much of a diplomat, twists the knife some more and goes after the opposition in the only institution they have some sway — Parliament.
First, it is a less risky way of trying to coerce and arm-twist the MDC. Mnangagwa wants opposition MPs in his corner: they are the flower of democracy for him to posture to the world that there is democracy in the country.
He has been selling himself as a democrat, an opposite of Mugabe and the opposition MPs will be useful in projecting that image, hence he wants them to recognise him for that objective to be achieved.
Second, Zanu PF wants a breakdown of government, a government shutdown; they have the leverage of two-thirds in Parliament so that they continue as they please.
PAC was the only avenue of exposing Mnangagwa’s corruption and obviously, it exposes Zanu PF because the ministers are its appointees. Boycotting PAC is the corner they have curved and they can use that to block the MDC from exposing high-level corruption.
Thirdly, Zanu PF is resorting to coercive tactics that ED hardliners are known for. They know that recognition by MDC will unlock the economic gridlock and make the way easy for another Zanu PF re-election in 2023. Zanu PF knows the economic problems are caused by political instability.
Efforts to mediate by churches and anyone else have failed because, as South Africa’s
International Relations minister Naledi Pandor noted two weeks ago, there is a “deep antipathy” between Zimbabwe’s rival political leaders.
Zimbabwe, she said, was facing “one of the most challenging” economic situations in the region.
But the circus is set to run and run.
Alfonce Mbizwo is NewsDay Assistant Editor. Everson Mushava is NewsDay Chief Reporter. Veneranda Langa contributed to this article. They write in their personal capacities.