Citizens Coalition for Change leader Nelson Chamisa. (Photo: AP/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader on Thursday urged the Parliament speaker to reinstate 15 of his party’s lawmakers, saying they were removed from their positions because of a fraudulent letter.

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa said the lawmakers’ removal was part of an attempt by the ruling ZANU-PF party “to silence us.”

The issue has added to the political tension in the southern African nation since President Emmerson Mnangagwa won a second term and ZANU-PF retained its parliamentary majority in disputed elections in August. Chamisa rejected the results of the elections as a “blatant and gigantic fraud.”

The lawmakers from Chamisa’s Citizens Coalition for Change party were removed Tuesday after a man claiming to be the secretary-general of the CCC sent a letter to Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda saying they were being withdrawn.

Chamisa told Mudenda the man who sent the letter had no authority in his party and was an impostor, and his letter should be disregarded. But Mudenda, an official from ZANU-PF, still removed the lawmakers and declared their seats vacant. That led to a protest in Parliament by other CCC lawmakers, who were ejected by police.

The CCC has said it will boycott parliamentary business until the 15 are reinstated, widening the post-election political cracks. Chamisa has also accused Mnangagwa and ZANU-PF of post-election intimidation and violence.

Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi denied government or ruling party collusion in the removal of the opposition lawmakers and said others would lose their positions if they missed 21 consecutive Parliament sittings.

Although ZANU-PF retained its control of Parliament, it did not get a two-thirds majority that would give it the votes to change the constitution and possibly allow Mnangagwa, 81, to remain as leader beyond two terms, which is currently the limit. Mnangagwa has said this is his last term, though some in his party have called for him to stay on.

Mnangagwa replaced long-ruling autocrat Robert Mugabe after a coup in 2017 with promises of democratic reforms. Mnangagwa won his first term in another disputed election in 2018 and is now being accused of being as repressive as his predecessor.

Source: AP

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