Death threats frighten MPs

HARARE - Dozens  of opposition legislators who received death threats on the eve of the opening of Parliament by President Robert Mugabe on Thursday are scared stiff for their lives despite Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa pushing for a government probe into the threats.

Spooked Members of Parliament (MPs) who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said they were particularly worried about the fact that the real intentions and next move of the people behind the chilling death threats were not known. They were also doubtful that any government investigations into the matter would yield positive results.

A number of the affected legislators also said they were concerned that this was the third time in a row that MDC MPs had been sent the death threats on their mobile phones by suspected security agents, without authorities being able to shed light into the matter.

This week’s threats also came as opposition parties and pro-democracy groups have recently warned that President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF is increasingly using its monopoly over the country’s security apparatus to contain growing anger against their hold on power.

Describing the messages on Thursday as no laughing matter, in reaction to jeers from Zanu PF legislators, MDC vice president and Kuwadzana East MP, Nelson Chamisa, said the august House should take the matter seriously as the death threats were destabilising national peace and security.

“There are many, if not all MPs from the opposition who have received serious threats against their lives. We are MPs who have been elected and the president can’t be president without MPs. This is a serious issue which threatens national security,” Chamisa told Parliament.

Some of the messages sent to Chamisa read: “You may demonstrate but remember that you will be alone soon. After that you will be alone again. You will be remembered for a few days before you die and are history.

“Be reasonable as to what you intend to do in the august House. You have a family and you are too young and too handsome … and know that your colleagues you will demonstrate with you will not be with them when the dark cloud of death visits you”.

Among the opposition legislators that the death threats were also sent to were Amos Chibaya, Paurina Mpariwa and Jessie Majome. All of them received different messages revolving around death.

Mnangagwa, who is also leader of government business in the House, said investigations should be launched so that the people responsible for the death threats could be brought to book.

“Whoever is responsible for such messages, threatening the lives and security of honourable members or even an ordinary citizen cannot be taken lightly,” he said, after which National Assembly speaker Jacob Mudenda referred the matter to the Standing Rules and Orders Committee, with instructions to set up an investigation committee to deal with the threats.

However, the MDC said yesterday that it was not convinced by the calls for a probe because there were similar outstanding investigations relating to death threats which had been made to its MPs before.

“With due respect to both the Speaker of Parliament and VP Mnangagwa, we are unable to believe that they are sincere with their averment that death threats against some of our MPs should be taken seriously.

“This is the third time that these cowardly and sickening death threats have been issued against some of our MPs but up to now the police haven’t taken any concrete action in investigating the cases in order to unearth the persons behind these terrorist death threats,” party spokesperson Obert Gutu said.

“Zimbabwe is a virtual police State in which all political opponents of the Zanu PF regime are routinely targeted for intimidation, harassment, arrest, abduction and torture.

“It is pretty obvious that these death threats against some of our MPs are coming from the establishment. These threats are meant to instil fear in our legislators. This is a weird form of psychological and emotional torture,” he added.

Respected University of Zimbabwe politics expert, Eldred Masunungure, also said it was worrying that this was not the first time that such threats had been made against Mugabe’s and Zanu PF’s political opponents.

“I would like to believe that people who sent the messages are embedded in the security system and as such I don’t think we will get to a point where those people behind the messages are exposed.

“The attention span of people is very short and within two to three weeks it will all have been forgotten and any investigations will have died a natural death. I’m sceptical about the sincerity of the investigations,” he said.

Another political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, concurred with Masunungure while also dismissing the calls for a probe into the matter as “cheap politicking”.

“There is no sincerity in that. No one can get a prize for guessing who is issuing those threats. It’s the same people from the same party that has a majority in Parliament, the same party that controls the State, executive and judiciary.

“It’s impossible to therefore think that serious investigations will be done where the interested party is the suspect and investigator in one go,” he told the Daily News.

It appeared that the death threats were meant to stop the opposition MPs, who have previously embarrassed Mugabe by heckling and booing him in Parliament, from repeating the humiliation.

In 2008, the nonagenarian was heckled and jeered when he opened Parliament five months after a disputed and bloody election in which he lost to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

“You killed people, we won’t forget that,” the MDC MPs shouted at Mugabe as he presented his speech.

In 2014, the MPs also similarly booed and jeered Mugabe and sang derogatory songs against Zanu PF in dramatic scenes which left the long-ruling Zimbabwean leader rattled.

When Mugabe read a wrong speech at last year’s opening of Parliament, he was again subjected to humiliation during a live television broadcast which was beamed to millions of Zimbabweans.

The threats against the MDC MPs come as Mugabe is facing the biggest challenge to his 36-year rule.

But the nonagenarian has not taken lightly to the challenge, unleashing the country’s security apparatus on the restive populace with devastating consequences — amid fears that the government may effect a State of Emergency to foil protests.

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