Harare – Another 18 opposition lawmakers in Zimbabwe lost their seats on Tuesday in what analysts said appears to be an artificial political crisis aimed at erasing any meaningful opposition.
Thirteen MPs and five senators with the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) had their seats declared vacant after a man they say is an impostor posing as a party official recalled them.
That added to 15 CCC lawmakers who were recalled in similar fashion last month, triggering by-elections that could hand the ruling Zanu-PF party a two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution.
“This is nonsense and lame. I am the opposition leader in the National Assembly which means any communication from my party should come through me,” Amos Chibaya, one of the recalled MPs, told journalists.
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The chaotic situation was triggered by a series of letters to parliament penned by a man named Sengezo Tshabangu, claiming to be CCC “interim secretary general”.
CCC leader Nelson Chamisa has said Tshabangu is not a CCC member, the party has no secretary general, and has not expelled or recalled any MP – but to no avail.
The recalls were ratified by the heads of the two houses of parliament, who are both ZANU-PF members.
“It shows they want (the CCC) completely destroyed,” said Chipo Dendere, a Zimbabwean scholar.
Tshabangu has denied being a Zanu-PF stooge.
The case has worsened political tensions that have been running high in the southern African country since an August 23 vote that international observers said fell short of democratic standards.
“Taxpayers’ resources are being blown on senseless elections,” said Obert Masaraure a spokesman for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, a civil society umbrella group.
“The CCC has managed to remain calm in the face of an onslaught from the ruling party. It is going to be difficult to restrain ordinary members of the public.”
An activist campaigning for the CCC ahead of the by-elections scheduled for December was abducted and killed over the weekend.
Other party members have been snatched and tortured in recent weeks, the CCC has said.
In August, Chamisa, 45, lost the presidential race to incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa, 81, of ZANU-PF.
The ruling party, in power since independence in 1980 also secured a majority in parliament but fell about a dozen seats short of the number required to change the constitution.
Analysts believe Zanu-PF might use a strong majority to remove a two-term presidential limit and enable Mnangagwa, who came to power on the back of a coup that ousted long-time ruler Robert Mugabe in 2017, to stay on after 2028.
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