Parliamentary privilege under threat

Members of the CIO last week trailed MDC MP Eddie Cross all the way from Harare to Mvuma and threatened to harm him over his contribution in Parliament about putting an end to Zanu (PF)’s thieving at the Marange Diamond Fields.

Cross says he was also threatened inside Parliament by an un-named fellow MP from Zanu (PF). “We will investigate and come after you,” the MP told him.

If elected Members of Parliament are going to be subjected to surveillance and threats, especially by officials who are on the taxpayers’ payroll, things have come to a very sorry state indeed.

Internationally, discussions in Parliament have always benefitted from legal privilege. In other words MPs cannot be sued or prosecuted for what they say in the House. This is necessary in order to ensure freedom of expression by the elected representatives of the people and to protect them from heavy-handed behaviour by the executive or the judiciary.

Without this privilege, debate in Parliament would be constrained – and thereby rendered meaningless.

If MPs are afraid, for whatever reason, to raise issues that are of concern to their constituents then Parliament can no longer fulfil its function.

The question of the Marange diamonds is a national issue. Zimbabweans have every right to expect their country to benefit from this resource. Discussions in Parliament reflect what is going on in the country.

We would expect Parliament to protect itself from such unwarranted interference. The CIO officials responsible should be hauled before the House to give an account of themselves. This problem needs to be nipped in the bud right now. Parliament needs to take robust measures to defend itself and its members and to send the message that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated in Zimbabwe.

If Parliament does not act firmly now, this will be the beginning of a very slippery slope.

Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga

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