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ZIMBABWE ELECTION AFTERMATH

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s CCC members ‘disengage’ from Parliament after MPs recalled by ‘imposter’

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa’s CCC members ‘disengage’ from Parliament after MPs recalled by ‘imposter’
Illustrative image: Top rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa in a solo protest against the recall of 15 Zimbabwe MPs. | Nelson Chamisa speaks to the media in Harare on 27 August 2023. (Photos: X [formerly known as Twitter] / @NewZimbabweCom | EPA-EFE / Aaron Ufumeli)

Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Nelson Chamisa on Wednesday announced that his Citizens Coalition for Change party was disengaging from Parliament and local authorities to protest against the recalling of 24 of his party’s legislators by an ‘imposter’.

Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa told reporters on Wednesday that his party was “disengaging” from government business following an announcement on Tuesday by the Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Mudenda, that 15 members of his party had been recalled from the House. Nine CCC senators were also recalled.

Police had to be called into the new Parliament building on Tuesday when chaotic scenes marred parliamentary business, resulting in several legislators being injured after Mudenda’s announcement that 15 opposition legislators had ceased to be members of Parliament.

Chamisa had to hastily convene a meeting of his party’s top officials on Wednesday and resolved to temporarily halt the participation of his party’s deployees in Parliament, the Senate and all local authorities countrywide.

“We are ordering all our deployees to Parliament and local authorities to disengage until this issue has been resolved. When I say disengage, we have not said that they have withdrawn, they are disengaging, meaning to say that no business shall be transacted until remedy and justice is done,” Chamisa told reporters.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Zimbabwe elections 2023

The move by Chamisa and his party came after Sengezo Tshabangu, who claimed to be the CCC’s interim secretary-general, wrote to the Speaker of Parliament recalling the opposition members who were elected in the disputed 23 August harmonised elections.

However, Chamisa said his party had no such position. He further alleged that the recalls were masterminded by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling Zanu-PF party.

Zanu-PF’s parliamentary chief whip, Pupurai Togarepi, said disengaging was not in the vocabulary of representing the electorate.

“Disengaging? There is no language like disengaging. It’s either you withdraw or you keep quiet and respect what the law says. That’s absolute nonsense. We as Zanu-PF have no business in the infightings showing in the CCC hotchpotch political party.

“We will be guided by law and the Standing Orders and Rules governing what Parliament should do if they decide to be mischievous and absent themselves beyond the stipulated times. Parliament will not allow intransigence; the law will be applied without fear or favour. I think Chamisa just wants to sink with the political careers of his inept followers,” Togarepi said. 

Escalating political crisis

Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu, who works for International Media Support, told Daily Maverick that the action of the CCC was an escalation of Zimbabwe’s political crisis. 

“The CCC is escalating the political crisis by disengaging … as a way of protesting the unconstitutional, illegal and very brazen political move by Zanu-PF and the Parliament of Zimbabwe to recall its MPs. So, we have to wait and see what impact this will have,” Mukundu said.

Other analysts said Zanu-PF could find it difficult to pass any laws in Parliament as the ruling party failed to garner a two-thirds majority in Parliament during the 23 August elections. Some believe the recalls were a ploy by the ruling party to secure a two-thirds majority through the back door if by-elections were to be held now.

Hopewell Chin’ono, a prominent Zimbabwean journalist and critic of  Mnangagwa’s administration, posted on his X (formerly Twitter) account that pulling legislators out of Parliament was not a good strategy for the opposition.

“My view is that pulling out en masse adds no value unless you have a nuclear option to take on the regime on another terrain. Political decisions should be based on strategic thinking and not emotions and anger alone. Pulling out all MPs will accentuate cracks in CCC because as I said last week, Parliament is a job for many of our MPs both in CCC and Zanu-PF,” Chin’ono wrote.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Warfare State — why Zimbabwe under Zanu-PF will not progress

Zimbabwe is reeling under a political crisis following the elections that Chamisa dismissed as a gigantic fraud after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission declared Mnangagwa the winner with 52.6% of the votes cast, while Chamisa came second with 44%. The remainder of the votes were split between smaller political parties.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other international observers criticised the polls, saying they fell short of meeting the requirements of Zimbabwe’s Constitution, electoral laws and regional standards governing the conduct of democratic elections. 

‘We know what we’re doing’

Chamisa abandoned the legal route to challenge the outcome of the elections, alleging judicial capture. He embarked on a diplomatic offensive to ratchet up pressure on the international community to assist Zimbabwe in addressing the legitimacy question after the disputed polls. 

“In fact, we are putting on notice all key stakeholders in the country, including civil society, SADC, AU [African Union], the EU [European Union] and the international community including the United Nations, that we have a constitutional crisis in Zimbabwe and that we have a disputed election,” Chamisa said this week.

“We are going to run a campaign diplomatically [and] politically in a peaceful manner, in a constitutional manner because there are remedies within the Constitution and we are going to exhaust them. A lot of people are saying, ‘No you are too slow, you are not able to do this. No, take it easy.’

“We know what we are doing. We understand the pulse of this nation, we know our influence, we know our capacity. Organising and mobilising is not one of our weaknesses; we have many, but I can tell you that is not one of our weaknesses.

“We can organise so well and mobilise so well that we can even persuade Zanu-PF members to be part of this legitimacy issue because poverty knows no political party. In fact, any action, any peaceful expression of discontent must not be a partisan one; it must also reach out to Zanu-PF. I am extending this invitation to people in Zanu-PF to come together, come, let us reason together. You are also victims because you must know that poverty does not ask for a political party card.”

There have been calls for the SADC to convene an extraordinary summit to discuss the political crisis in Zimbabwe, but it’s unclear when such a summit might take place. DM

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