It was described as a symbol of deepening relations between Zimbabwe and China when the country’s ”all weather friend” donated the new Parliament building located in Mt Hampden on the outskirts of Harare.
The US$100 million imposing structure was built on 33 000 square metres and comprises a six-storey office complex and a four-storey building housing the National Assembly and Senate.
It also has conferencing facilities, 15 committee rooms, office space for staff and a car parking area.
It took 42 months to complete the project, instead of the original 32-month timeframe due to COVID-19 disruptions.
Construction of the building, a fine piece of magnificent architecture, began in November 2018.
The new Parliament building which was donated has, however, turned out to be a theatre of high political drama and intrigue.
From heated debates, recalls, court challenges and power struggles, the year was marked by political drama with Parliament serving as the battleground.
A few months after the disputed August elections an unexpected political drama quickly played out.
The ink on the electoral certificates for the Members of Parliament (MPs) had not dried when a Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) member, Sengezo Tshabangu, cracked the whip on legislators belonging to the opposition party.
Tshabangu, claiming to be the CCC interim secretary-general, recalled 14 CCC MPs and 17 councillors, saying they had ceased to be party members.
The calm waters of the first session of the Tenth Parliament were abruptly disturbed by the recalls, turning the legislative chamber into a battlefield.
Chaos erupted in the National Assembly chamber on October 10 as opposition MPs were dramatically ejected by anti-riot police for protesting the recall of their colleagues.
The chaos began soon after the swearing in of newly-elected opposition MPs including former Binga South legislator, Prince Dubeko Sibanda.
Unable to contain their anger, the CCC MPs broke into song and chanted slogans denouncing the Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda, for accepting Tshabangu’s recall letter.
Mudenda banished them from Parliament.
The courts became the new battleground, with judges dealing with intricate legal arguments with the weight of Zimbabwe’s fragile democracy on their shoulders.
The opposition has dismissed Tshabangu as a Zanu PF impostor sponsored to ensure the ruling party grabs a two-thirds majority via the backdoor.
Zanu PF won 136 of the 210 constituencies.
The ruling party also won 33 of the 60 women proportional representation seats and seven of the 10 youth seats.
CCC won 73 constituency seats and picked up 27 of the women’s seats and three youth seats.
By-elections were held on December 9, 2023, and Zanu PF won 7 out of the 9 contested seats.
The CCC was saved from further recalls after the Supreme Court later ruled against Tshabangu.
The recalls resulted in the holding of by-elections on December 9. A second set of by-elections will be held on February 3.
The CCC alleged widespread irregularities perpetrated by Zanu PF ahead of the December 9 by-elections, further deepening the political tensions in the country.
A CCC activist, Tapfumaneyi Masaya, was abducted while on a campaign trail ahead of the December by-elections and was later found dead.
Despite protests over rights’ abuses and intimidation of CCC supporters, Zanu PF solidified its grip on power.
Zanu PF used its near parliamentary majority to pass the 2024 national budget and Finance Bill while the CCC remained divided and in disarray.
The Ninth Parliament will be remembered by Zimbabweans as a session where Bills that were rejected as undemocratic by members of the public, human rights and civic groups were passed.
The controversial Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill sailed through both Houses but was later returned to Parliament by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Once signed into law, the government will be equipped with wide powers to interfere in the operations of civil society organisations.
Civic society groups have condemned the Bill saying it undermines freedoms of expression and association.
The Bill allows the State to interfere with civil society organisations’ governance and activities.
Penalties for breaching the provisions of the Bill range from heavy fines to imprisonment.
The controversial Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill, also known as the Patriot Bill was, however, signed into law by Mnangagwa.
The new law imposes harsh penalties, including the death penalty, for anyone found guilty of “wilfully damaging the sovereignty and national interest of Zimbabwe.”
Other penalties provided for in the Act include loss of citizenship and denial of the right to vote.
The Act has received condemnation from political quarters and civic society groups arguing that it is meant to silence critics of government.
Introducing the Bill in Parliament late last year, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, said the proposed law sought to prohibit private citizens from making false statements or undermining the country, or acting as self-appointed ambassadors meeting foreign officials to undermine national interests.
Absent ministers and their deputies
Mudenda and the President of the Senate Mabel Chinomona kept reminding ministers to attend Parliament question and answer sessions.
Section 107(2) of the Constitution stipulates that Vice-Presidents, ministers and their deputies must attend Parliament and Parliamentary portfolio committees.
However, the majority of ministers and their deputies were conspicuous by their absence on many occasions to answer questions concerning matters for which they are collectively or individually responsible.
However, Zimbabweans welcome the new year, with some aspiring MPs canvassing for votes ahead of the February 3 by-elections.