By Irwin Chifera | VOA Zimbabwe |
Business came to a standstill in Parliament on Wednesday after acting Speaker, Mabel Chinomona, ordered two opposition Movement for Democratic Change lawmakers to get rid of Zimbabwean flags they brought to the august house.
Chinomona told Trevor Saruwaka and Godfrey Sithole, who were putting on the national flag, to leave the house in line with Tuesday’s ruling barring lawmakers from putting the flag while in parliament.
But the two refused and even attempts by the Sergeant at Arms to eject them failed.
The national flag has become popular with citizens following movement called #This Flag started by pro-democracy activist, Pastor Evan Mawarire , who is asking President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party to deliver on their election promises.
ACT OF PATRIOTISM
Trouble started after Zanu PF lawmaker Oliver Mandipaka asked the Speaker why the MDC lawmakers were defying a ruling made by then acting speaker Reuben Marumahoko who on Tuesday barred the wearing of the flag in the house.
Chinomona ordered the two to take their flags out but they refused forcing her to enlist the services of the Sergeant-At-Arms to eject them.
But they refused and started passing on the flag to fellow lawmakers from their party.
MDC-T chief whip, Innocent Gonese, defended the lawmakers saying putting on the national flag was a display of patriotism.
The flags were eventually taken out of the House of Assembly after Chinomona threatened to suspend the lawmakers.
Meanwhile, all cabinet ministers and the two vice presidents bunked parliament on Wednesday prompting the opposition lawmakers to ask the Speaker to charge them for contempt of parliament.
Opposition lawmakers said the country was facing serious economic and social problems and ministers should come to parliament to answer questions from their constituents.
Gonese said they have been complaining about the behaviour of the ministers and it was time they faced the music.
But acting speaker Chinomana said she had been advised that they were attending a cabinet meeting and their deputies were standing in for them.
In another development, Deputy Public Service Minister Tapiwa Matangaidze, was heckled by opposition lawmakers after he claimed that government had the capacity to pay state workers and pensioners.
Matangaidze was responding to a question from opposition lawmaker Jessie Majome of the MDC-T who wanted to know why government was delaying payment of salaries if it had the capacity to pay.
Matangaidze said they had agreed with state workers that their salaries would be staggered as government was experiencing cash-flow problems.
He said he was surprised that the opposition was worried about the payment of civil servants more than the workers themselves.
But Majome and others said they had every reason to worry as they represented the workers in their constituencies.
With 10 days left before the end of the month, government has not paid its workers and does not have specific pay dates as yet. It paid the June salaries this month.