Chaos as police storm Parliament

HARARE - There was complete pandemonium in Parliament yesterday after police ill-advisedly stormed the National Assembly to rough up opposition legislators following a bizarre attempt by authorities to eject an MDC MP from the august House for wearing a jacket adorned in the colours of the Zimbabwe flag.

The unprecedented action by the police — which even some Zanu PF legislators described as “utterly shocking” — came after acting Speaker of Parliament Mabel Chinomona surprisingly ruled that MDC MP Costa Machingauta be removed from the House for proudly wearing his colourful jacket: arguably one of the highest demonstrations of patriotism and nationalism by a citizen.

To add to the mayhem and sense of doom on the day, dozens of female MPs told the Daily News afterwards that they had allegedly been sexually abused by the manic police officers who pounced on them.

Most MPs were also in agreement that the police had infringed on the Constitution by invading Parliament and roughing up legislators, thereby ignoring a key tenet of Zimbabwe’s constitutional democracy — the separation of powers between the Executive and Parliament.

On the other hand, both political analysts and ordinary Zimbabweans alike were united in bemoaning the government’s “mad criminalisation” of the use and wearing of the national flag, where supposed offenders now risk having to serve a two-year jail term or being fined $200 under new laws governing the use of the flag.

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What began as a routine, light-hearted point of order by Zanu PF MP for Zvishavane John Holder, who argued that Budiriro legislator Machingauta was improperly dressed, quickly turned nasty when Chinomona ruled that he be ejected from Parliament.

This saw Parliament security and the sergeant at arms attempting to carry out the order, with Machingauta vociferously protesting that there was nothing unparliamentary about the way he was dressed.

This subsequently saw police manning Parliament invading the august House to enthusiastically carry out the order, sparking even wilder protests from MDC legislators who argued that this latter action was unconstitutional and in violation of the rules of the House.

MDC vice president Nelson Chamisa pointed out that parliamentary rules under order 110 did not give police any authority to enter into Parliament to eject a member as it was ultra vires the doctrine of separation of powers in a constitutional democracy.

Opposition MPs formed a barricade using chairs in a desperate attempt to try and block the dozens of police officers who had come in and forcing their way towards Machingauta.

However, the police, with Chinomona’s encouragement, as well as cheering from a section of Zanu PF MPs, eventually managed to force their way and took Machingauta out.

“I wish to state and put it on record that we, as the opposition, are very clear and alive to the fact that standing rules and orders of this House do not give any authority to the police to eject a member of this House,” Chamisa argued on a point of order after Machingauta’s departure.

“We have authorities here and hence police officers cannot come to Parliament and I challenge you (Chinomona) to show us where in the Constitution is this  provided. I have consulted with legal gurus here and there is nothing like that.

“Our biggest problem though is that some of the police officers who entered (the House) harassed and sexually abused female MPs, which is a very serious offence.  But I know that this is easy to ignore when you are not a victim.

“We underscore that in terms of section 148 of the Constitution we need to respect our MPs for who they are. So, until we have an explanation of how the police ended up in here, we will have difficulties co-operating with you from now onwards,” the agitated Chamisa added.

Some of the MPs who were allegedly abused by the police include Lwazi Sibanda, the MDC MP for Tsholotsho, who claimed that she had her undergarment torn as one of the officers pulled her by the skirt, while another legislator, Susan Machuma, alleged that one of the officers had fondled her breasts.

Chinomona who was getting advice from Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda, promised that the matter would be investigated thoroughly.

However, she maintained that according to the rules of Parliament, police had authority to come in to arrest persons who could be interrupting the business of the House, adding that they did not need a warrant of arrest to do so.

But Chamisa insisted that Chinomona was being misled by Chokuda whom he said was failing to differentiate between an ordinary person and an MP.

Addressing the media soon after their subsequent walkout, Chamisa said what had transpired in the House was an “embarrassment” to the country.

“This is unheard of in the history of the country and it undermines the rules of law, especially section 148 of the Constitution. The sad thing is that we have received reports that one of our MPs had her undergarment torn by the violent police and it’s a worrisome development.

“We are also worried that we do not know where they have taken Machingauta to. That is why we have walked out in protest. It’s embarrassing,” he said.

The Zimbabwe flag has become a subject of much debate in the country both at home and internationally over the past few months, following a campaign by exiled clergyman Evan Mawarire who used it as a rallying tool in a social media drive dubbed #ThisFlag.

Then, the flag became the embodiment of a growing defiant spirit among Zimbabweans protesting against the country’s misrule by Zanu PF and the attendant economic rot.

And it was in the aftermath of that campaign that the panicking government invoked Rhodesian statutes and said it was now a criminal offence to sell or manufacture the flag without the Justice ministry’s permission — further threatening to imprison “offenders” as it sought to tighten the screws on dissenters.

In a strongly-worded statement in September, the Justice ministry warned: “The ministry of Justice as the administrative authority in charge of the national flag is concerned with the increasing incidences whereby members of the public have been using the national flag in a manner that is prohibited by the Constitution and the relevant Act of Parliament regulations”.

“The sale and use of the national flag is governed by the Flag of Zimbabwe Act and the regulations made in terms of the Act, namely, the Flag of Zimbabwe (use and application of the Flag) regulations, 1987, Statutory Instrument 194 of 1987.

“The Act makes it a criminal offence for any person to burn, mutilate or otherwise insult the national flag or any reproduction thereof, in circumstances which are calculated or likely to show disrespect for the national flag or to bring the national flag into disrepute,” Virginia Mabiza, the permanent secretary in the Justice ministry, said then.

During the official opening of Parliament by Mugabe on October 6, another MDC MP, Trevor Saruwaka, was barred from entering the august House for wearing a jacket adorned with the colours of the Zimbabwe flag.

Comments (12)

A suit and a flag are two different things a flag is a flag and no one can wear a flag while a suit with same colors with those of a national flag is never a flag at all .and no one has monopoly over colors this is totally bull shit totally abuse of power by zanu idiots nonsense demity

Diibulaanyika - 27 October 2016

what i do not understand is who owns our flag. is it the people or Zanu Pf. Sure God Almighty has not forgotten us. How can the son of a Malawian migrant fuck our beloved Zimababwe to this extend.

rovai - 27 October 2016

This is a shame and share madness. What does our constitution say about this - any clause which forbides Zimbabweans to dress as per colours of their liking? Instead we should be fighting together to put right all our problems which face us as a nation.

Pythias Makonese - 27 October 2016

@Diibulaanyika you are spot on man

tired - 27 October 2016

Umsindo ingathi base bhawa

Slim Cat - 27 October 2016

What is so amazing is a white guy in parliament representing Zanu PF. Look at the picture. He sits quietly as parliament descends into a frenzy. John Holder should know better and stop being a sellout. It's not right! We are busy suffering so justice can prevail and you go on to support the despotic regime. You have let down your fellow peoples.

John Holder - 28 October 2016

I wish we could be shown the offending garment. Was it supposed to cause all this hallabaloo?

Seles - 28 October 2016

Zanu Pf is running this country like their personal tuckshop. Hence the reason why we are in this mess. Zanu Pf is wholly responsible for the suffering currently being faced by the Zimbabweans today. It's just unfortunate that they don't want to accept because they don't know. I concur with one speaker at some fora who said African countries are being run by hyenas. Surely can that jacket be an issue that would warrant someone to be dragged out of the parliament. Kana iyewo Chinomona wach, pfunwa dzake dzakakwana here. I think his kids if he has, are laughing at his insanity.

nhamoinesu - 28 October 2016

I cannot believe that the revolutionary Zanu PF is being led to act by a white man, and in parliament for that matter!

Jonso - 28 October 2016

Not so long ago I dined with a Cuban doctor - a very decent man who loved his country and all that it represented. He was disgusted with some of the ZANU PF officials saying that most of them were nothing but pseudo revolutionaries behaving like the Batista capitalists and giving our socialist cause a bad name. This man is no longer in this country so I am free to talk about him now.

Mbewa - 28 October 2016

Zanu pf zvaora...

Young Zimbo - 28 October 2016

I never thought I would learn how to trade and make money from it but after coming across Superior Trading System, they have taught me well and I'm proud to say that I am successful in my trades. Google Superior Trading System if you want to learn as well

unchuabriol - 31 October 2016

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