MDC Alliance deputy chairperson Tendai Biti has pleaded for Parliament to protect opposition legislators following the arrest of 12 MDC Alliance members since August 2018.
Speaking on a point of privilege in the National Assembly on Tuesday, Biti said the State has a right to proceed against any individual in respect of which reasonable grounds of suspicion exists.
He, however, felt the charges brought against the opposition legislators were political.
“The charges are clearly tied up inextricably to the contested election of 30th July, 2018,” Biti said.
“Mr. Speaker Sir, you are the leader of this august House, there is a duty on Parliament to protect the integrity of this Honourable House. The integrity of this Honourable House can only be manifested if the safety and security of Honourable Members is safeguarded and protected.”
National Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda said Biti’s request was a slippery slope .
“When Members of Parliament (MPs) are within the premises of Parliament, the Privileges Act is very clear. Nobody will touch them but when they are outside there, Parliament is not aware of the activities of any MP in terms of their public behaviour. On that score, it may be very difficult to come in between the Judiciary and the law enforcement agencies,” Mudenda said.
“If Honourable Biti is appealing for some measure of how the arresting officers can or should approach MPs who are suspected of some offence, then we need to tighten up our Privileges Act so that it clearly states what Honourable Biti has said. So, until we amend the Privileges Act that there be some degree of respect given to Honourable Members when they are suspected of having committed a crime, that they are approached in a decent manner, a manner that does not impugn on their dignity.”
Among the opposition legislators arrested so far include Settlement Chikwinya, Amos Chibaya, Charlton Hwende, Godfrey Sithole,Joanna Mamombe, Senator Morgen Komichi and Biti.
Chibaya, Hwende and Mamombe, are facing charges of subversion and stands accused of wanting to subvert a constitutionally elected Government.