Parly wraps up MDC MPs death threat probe

HARARE - House of Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda has announced that investigations by an influential committee of Members of Parliament into a threat to take down opposition MDC MPs on the eve of the opening of Parliament were underway.

Mudenda told the lower house that the Privileges Committee — in line with Standing Rules and Orders — was probing the extremely disturbing affair.

The vile threats — which were sent online from a sender called “Hitman” — warned the MDC legislators to behave throughout the official opening of the Fourth Session of the Eighth Parliament of Zimbabwe in October last year.

The threatening message on MDC MPs phone read: “You may have false immunity as a group, but remember after that you will be alone again. You will be remembered for a few days, after that you are history. Certa (Latin for ‘sure’).”

MDC vice president and Kuwadzana East legislator Nelson Chamisa and Mkoba MP Amos Chibaya were among the many opposition MPs who received the messages — apparently aimed at dissuading them from booing and embarrassing President Robert Mugabe.

The MPs refused to contact the police after receiving the malicious communication, saying the law enforcement agency had previously dismally failed to investigate threats made against them earlier.

MDC members were forced to sit quietly after the 92-year-old opened his speech, while supportive members of the ruling Zanu PF party regularly clapped at intervals.

It was the third time the so-called “Hitman” dispatched messages threatening MDC legislators, who demanded a parliamentary probe arguing that the intimidation should be taken seriously especially following the disappearance of activist Itai Dzamara.

“The chair would like to inform the House that the Privileges Committee appointed to investigate allegedly threatening messages sent to some members of the MDC-T party is continuing with its inquiry,” Mudenda told the House of Assembly on Tuesday.

“In this regard, all MPs who received the allegedly threatening messages must approach the assistant clerk of Parliament, ... Johane Gandiwa with any information or evidence which may assist the investigations that we can conclude the investigations accordingly,” he said amid inaudible interjections from opposition backbenches

The Privileges Committee is being chaired by Chief Fortune Charumbira while MDC MPs Paurina Mpariwa, Gift Chimanikire and Zanu PF colleagues Ziyambi Ziyambi,  Mlilo Ntandoyenkosi and Chakona Paradzai also constitute the committee.

Mudenda said the committee was probing the source of the alleged harassment to determine whether the threats directly or indirectly constitute contempt of Parliament. The probe findings are expected in March and the committee is expected to make appropriate recommendations.

Perpetrators, if found, could be charged with sending a letter or communication causing anxiety or distress.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights has condemned such “an act of cowardice that is not only unlawful and can be prosecuted, but also an infringement on the right to freedom of expression and conscience protected in the Constitution whether a person is inside or outside Parliament.”

Several legislators have spoken out about the abuse the opposition legislators have regularly faced saying the incidents were “extremely concerning” and that intimidation of any kind should never be tolerated.

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