Zimbabwe is bracing itself for the opening of parliament on Tuesday. Some fear that opposition MDC-Alliance MPs will lead noisy protests within the House of Assembly as they did last week when their 63 MPs were sworn into office.
This had greatly upset chief justice Luke Malaba. They also swarmed election commission chair Judge Priscilla Chigumba at another event. The harassment by the MDC was criticised by Veritas, Zimbabwe’s long-standing independent parliamentary watchdog.
The opening of parliament will be the first opportunity that president Emmerson Mnangagwa will have to spell out his policies for the next five years, not least how he will manage the bankrupt economy.
Mnangagwa came to power first in a coup d’etat last November, and immediately began to relax his predecessor, Robert Mugabe’s style as he blaming all, especially the MDC and the few remaining whites, for the country’s economic collapse.
But many in the MDC continued to denigrate Mnangagwa and accuse him of being close to the heart of Zanu-PF as it launched gross human rights abuses against thousands of opposition supporters after independence and again after the MDC was born in 1999.
Despite Zimbabwe’s perilous economy, Mnangagwa has spent millions on new vehicles for traditional leaders and veterans of the liberation war. At least another US $20 million will be spent on luxury vehicles for nearly 300 members of the House of Assembly – parliament, senate and provincial leaders.
The budget will have to cope with Mnangagwa’s increase in spending on more than 500 000 civil servants with raises – announced just before the elections – of between 17 – 22 percent.
But many say that in so far as he was able, Mnangagwa tried to produce free and fair elections, or as others put it, legitimate and credible polls on July 30 and allowed all and any foreign observers into the country for the first time in 20 years. But the main constituency he wanted to impress, the EU and its US allies from the Democratic and Republican parties found several faults with the elections, not least the partisan public media, and reports of intimidation and lack of independence of the election commission.
But nevertheless, none of them challenged the results of the polls.
A senior researcher at the Institute of Security Studies, Derek Matyszak, who also carefully monitored several previous elections, has said repeatedly that there was no evidence MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa won the presidential poll as he claims.
It was these claims – that he had been cheated of victory prior to announcement of results – which propelled many angry protestors onto the streets on that fateful day, August 1, when the army shot dead six unarmed civilians after some protestors had themselves committed some violence in central Harare.
Many are worried because Zanu-PF has said in advance of the opening of parliament, that it will change the constitution to accommodate “devolution” a key part of the charter agreed by both MDC and Zanu PF during years of negotiations.
Zanu-PF under president Robert Mugabe ignored devolution within the constitution launched in 2013, and unconstitutionally appointed provincial governors.
Jessie Majome, one of the hardest working former MDC MP’s who had to stand as an independent in the elections but was beaten by the MDC Alliance candidate, said: “The MDC needs to challenge this proposed constitutional change. Mnangagwa has been most disappointing in continuing to appoint provincial governors. If Zanu-PF does indeed try to change the constitution to avoid establishment of provincial councils to ensure effective devolution of power, then the MDC should urgently take this to court.”