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Zimbabwe bans questions from opposition MPs


Zimbabwe’s opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa. Courtesy photo

Zimbabwe’s parliament has banned opposition legislators from posing questions to ministers until their party recognises President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s victory in last year’s elections.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Nelson Chamisa rejected President Mnangagwa’s narrow presidential election win citing alleged massive vote rigging.

Mr Chamisa’s petition challenging the results was, however, thrown out by the Constitutional Court.

Opposition MPs early this year boycotted President Mnangagwa’s state of the nation address saying they did not recognise his election.

Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi on Wednesday asked the speaker of parliament Jacob Mudenda to stop opposition MPs from asking ministers questions since they did not recognise the president who appointed them.

“In terms of the constitution, ministers belong to cabinet and that cabinet is comprised of the president,” Advocate Mudenda said. “Until we resolve the issue of acceptance by members of the opposition, the request by the leader of the House (Mr Ziyambi) stands.”

Former Finance minister Tendai Biti, who is also the MDC vice president, described the ruling by the speaker as unconstitutional.

“The decision by Parliament of proscribing MDC MPs from interrogating the regime’s ministers is an embarrassing attempt to ban the MDC parliamentary caucus,” Mr Biti tweeted. “It’s a subversion of the constitution and yet another self-imposed sanction.”

The long running political dispute between the ruling Zanu PF and MDC has been blamed economic stagnation and political polarisation in the country.

President Mnangagwa’s government has also been clamping down on dissent with opposition demonstrations virtually banned.

United Nations (UN) special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association Clement Nyaletsossi Voule last month said his 10 day visit had shown that Zimbabweans were losing confidence that the new government had the capacity to return the country into the path of democracy.

The UN expert cited the killing of protesters, clampdown against protests and the banning of opposition gatherings as some of the worrying signs that the democratic space was being closed in Zimbabwe.

President Mnangagwa succeeded the late Robert Mugabe following a coup in 2017 and the time he promised Zimbabweans a “new unfolding democracy.”

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