WASHINGTON D.C. —
Opposition lawmakers from the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC say they are now living in fear following alleged death threats they received on their mobile phones warning them against heckling or booing President Robert Mugabe during Tuesday’s address officially opening the Third Session of Zimbabwe’s Eighth Parliament.
As a result, the party has petitioned Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda challenging the way he handled the situation and the threats they say could have been sent by suspected state security agents.
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu told a news conference at his party’s Harvest House headquarters Wednesday that the opposition was disturbed by the threats to seven of its lawmakers.
“The Speaker's order flies in the face of Parliamentary privileges as enshrined in the Parliamentary Privileges and Immunities Act,” said Gutu, confirming his MDC has already sent their letter to Mudenda.
“These death threats are a chilling reminder of the deteriorating security situation in the country and we call upon the Speaker of Parliament to issue a statement strongly condemning the death threats.”
Gutu told reporters that the affected legislators were now living in fear of their lives following the threats and called on Mudenda to take action.
When the matter was raised in parliament Tuesday, Mudenda urged the MPs to report the matter to the police.
Before Mr. Mugabe’s address the Speaker had told the opposition backbenchers not to heckle the President whom they embarrassed when he presented his State of the Nation Address to the august house three weeks ago.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said they have not yet received a complaint on the matter.
But Gutu said the Speaker of Parliament should apologize and give a written guarantee that the opposition lawmakers shall not be harmed during the execution of their duties both inside and outside the august house.
“Members of Parliament are honourable citizens of the country who should not be subjected to any form of unlawful pressure and or intimidation in the exercise of their constitutional mandate,” he said.
Gutu added the threats, coming after the alleged abduction of pro-democracy activist Itai Dzamara by suspected state agents, are a major cause for concern.
MDC-T parliamentary chief whip, Innocent Gonese, on Wednesday asked parliament to set up a special committee to look into the threats.
Mudenda referred the matter to parliament’s Standing Rules and Orders Committee, which deals with such matters.
In an informal street survey in Harare, several residents like Thomas Madhuku told VOA it is wrong for anyone to threaten lawmakers or any other ordinary Zimbabwean for that matter.
An independent political analyst, Malvern Mkudu, noted that democracy is now at risk in Zimbabwe.
MDC-T legislators heckled Mr. Mugabe during his State of the Nation Address when he told parliamentarians that the country’s economy was showing great signs of recovery.
On the contrary, the opposition and some economists say the nation’s economy is on a downward trend.