NOBODY should be surprised that the Zanu PF government has criminalised dissent.
Even legislators can now be victimised for exercising their rights to freedom of thought, conscience and expression. The sovereignty of Parliament has been torn to shreds.
Any right-thinking person would conclude that these political manoeuvres are part of a sinister ploy to consolidate what Zanu PF’s director of information Tafadzwa Mugwadi (pictured) recently described as a push towards the creation of a one-party state.
On Wednesday this week, we were told the 118 sitting and former MDC members of the National Assembly and senators who sang, remained seated or walked out when President Emmerson Mnangagwa came to Parliament on five formal occasions should be found in contempt of Parliament, fined ZW$400 000 each and lose their diplomatic passports.
This was recommended by Parliament’s Privileges Committee, chaired by lawyer and Mudzi South National Assembly member Jonathan Samkange (Zanu PF).
The report was tabled before the Senate and must now be debated by the two Houses for a final decision.
The committee recommended that two legislators, namely Zengeza West MP Job Sikhala who is also deputy national chairperson of the main opposition MDC Alliance and former Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya, pay additional fines of ZW$800 000 for “disrespecting” the committee when it was carrying out its work as well as disrespecting the President.
Their individual fines will reach ZW$1.2 million.
This comes in the backdrop of the recall of more than 40 opposition legislators and 80 councillors through a contrived political strategy designed to subvert the will of voters and essentially obliterate every remaining iota of democracy.
The attack on representative democracy is escalating daily. Perhaps the time has come for the real opposition movement in this country to seriously think whether it it still worthwhile to continue participating in the National Assembly and Senate.
This question is relevant, in view of the relentless efforts by the Zanu PF regime to weaponise the law, manipulate public institutions and subvert the precepts of constitutional democracy.
But most citizens can see Zanu PF’s political skulduggery for what it is. The vicious assault on democracy will not be solved by the courts or by compromised tribunals but by the masses in the streets and villages across the length and breadth of this country. These are the ultimate owners of Zimbabwe and their voices cannot be ignored.
A few days ago, Sydney Gata, the executive chairperson of state-owned power utility Zesa Holdings, confirmed what Zimbabweans have known for decades: this country is a fully fledged authoritarian kleptocracy. Ministers and their cronies run parastatals like their backyard tuckshops, with zero regard for corporate governance.
Just this week, cabinet approved the Public Finance Management (Amendment) Bill which will enable the President to disburse taxpayers’ money from the Consolidated Revenue Fund during the dissolution of Parliament.
This dovetails well with spirited attempts to whittle down the legislature’s oversight powers on matters pertaining to public finance management, including the erasure of accountability for opaque and toxic public debt. Zimbabwe has morphed into something more frightening than a one-party state: a fully fledged authoritarian kleptocracy.