ZANU PF Kuwadzana Member of Parliament Betty Kaseke caused a stir in the National Assembly on Wednesday after she entered the august House while putting on a scarf with colours associated with the Zimbabwean flag.
There was commotion in the House when Kaseke entered the chamber, draped with the scarf popularised by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
When she was about to take her seat, lawmakers from the opposition MDC protested, calling on the acting Speaker of the National Assembly, Reuben Marumahoko, to chuck her out of the assembly on account of wearing something that was outside the dress code accepted in Parliament.
Efforts by Marumahoko to cool down tempers failed as all opposition legislators demanded that the sergeant-at-arms take her out, arguing that they were previously chased away after they came to the House wearing multi-coloured fashion jackets with Zimbabwe flag colours.
Following pressure from the opposition, the sergeant-at-arms then escorted Kaseke out of the chambers.
Mnangagwa has made this scarf part of his fashion statement and a few of his followers have also been seen wearing it.
The fashion police are now hot on his trail and are seemingly incensed by the scarf which he wears even in high temperatures, worse still when he attends engagements that often require him to wear safety clothing.
From the time he went to Davos for the World Economic Forum in January, the president has ‘‘not taken off the scarf’’, be it at party events or government engagements.
It has essentially become part of his fashion regimen.
While colours of a national flag unite citizens of particular countries, this national symbol became a source of consternation for former president Robert Mugabe’s regime when it became a rallying point for protests by Zimbabweans disenchanted with his rule.
The national flag became a protest symbol after it was popularised by cleric Evan Mawarire of #ThisFlag movement, which demanded Mugabe’s resignation, citing government’s failure to deal with corruption, nepotism and a serious economic meltdown.
Government responded by forbidding citizens from using the flag without the its permission, saying doing so was punishable by a fine of $200, a jail term of up to one year, or both.
Government cited an obscure law that makes it illegal to “burn, mutilate or otherwise insult the national flag
. . . in circumstances which are calculated or likely to show disrespect . . . or to bring [it] into disrepute.”
The law, however, says nothing at all about how the government defines “disrespect” or “disrepute,” leaving vast leeway to the powers-that-be to interpret these criteria.
In 2016, MDC Central South MP Trevor Saruwaka was refused entry into Parliament when he appeared wearing a multi-coloured fashion jacket with colours associated with the Zimbabwean flag.
After the incident, the legislator approached the High Court challenging his ejectment from National Assembly.
He argued in the High Court that his ejection from the august House was unlawful and an infringement of his right to freedom of conscience and religion. However, High Court judge Jester Charewa on behalf of Justice Lavender Makoni dismissed the matter with costs.