VICE-President Constantino Chiwenga yesterday caused a storm in the National Assembly when he appeared to rubbish Members of Parliament’s questions during his maiden appearance for the question-and-answer session in the House.
Chiwenga clashed with his opposite number in the opposition MDC Nelson Chamisa after the Defence minister appeared to give an arrogant response to the youthful legislator’s question.
Chamisa had asked Chiwenga during the National Assembly’s question without notice session why government was still failing to address the welfare of war veterans, 37 years after independence.
In his response, Chiwenga blamed the MDC for campaigning for the imposition of a Western travel and economic embargo on several Zanu PF party officials, top military figures and some government-owned firms. Zanu PF members were hit with sanctions over a decade ago in response to mass human rights violations and vote rigging.
“If we had been working like this together for the past 37 years that you refer to, we would not be where we are but you rush to America to ask for sanctions,”
Chiwenga said referring to a trip undertaken last month by Chamisa and former Finance minister Tendai Biti to Washington DC to present testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee where the team described the military intervention that enthrones Emmerson Mnangagwa as president as an illegal and illegitimate transfer of power from one faction of the ruling party to another.
Chiwenga’s remarks infuriated the opposition bench, which rose in unison to heckle him, accusing him of using unparliamentary language.
The chaos that ensued prompted National Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda to summon Chiwenga to his desk to direct him to withdraw his statement.
Mudenda took the decision after consulting with Chamisa who sat quietly as his colleagues protested.
Chiwenga reluctantly withdrew the statement and further sought to malign Chamisa saying “the matter has been withdrawn but …an arrow shot…”
Chiwenga’s statement was drowned by loud interjections by MDC legislators.
Rising on a point of order, Chamisa alleged that Chiwenga was attempting to intimidate the opposition.
“The fact that he mentioned something to do with an arrow shot is worrying,” Chamisa said.
“He is a military man, he is a soldier so kana magandanga otaura achidaro (when terrorists make reference to arrow shots) we get worried because you never know what that is suppose to mean,” Chamisa said.
Once again, Mudenda ordered Chiwenga to withdraw his “arrow shot” statement. He complied and said: “I retrieve my arrow.”
Mudenda then ordered Chamisa to also withdraw his “gandanga” word saying it was also “unparliamentary.”
The two finally smoked a peace pipe, with Chamisa remarking that it was important for the opposition vice president and his ruling party counterpart to amicably resolve their differences.
Chiwenga was nodding in agreement when Chamisa spoke.
“I want to thank the vice president for calling for a ceasefire,” Chamisa said.
“I appreciate the fact that the VP has said that the country’s financial position now is difficult and hence war veterans pensions cannot be reviewed at present.”
Earlier, Makokoba legislator Tshinga Dube (Zanu PF) asked Chiwenga to explain why it has taken long to align war veterans’ laws with the Constitution, as well as to explain if pensions of the former freedom fighters would be reviewed.
“On the issue of alignment of laws, the MP was minister of War Veterans,” Chiwenga responded.
“The matter is receiving attention because there were issues that needed to be clarified in terms of what is meant by war collaborators and how are they vetted.”