via New parly to be sworn-in – DailyNews Live by Gift Phiri
Zimbabwe’s new Parliament will be sworn in tomorrow, with the largest Zanu PF contingent in the nation’s history, sending a message that President Robert Mugabe’s three decades of iron-fisted rule remain unchallenged.
Newly-elected lawmakers will come to the Parliament building for the oath-taking ceremony amid tight security and escalating worry over possible post-election unrest.
Austin Zvoma, Clerk of Parliament, dressed in his black and white ceremonial robes, will administer the oath to lawmakers, with the ceremony likely to be broadcast live on television.
Legislators will “solemnly and sincerely affirm and declare …to bear true allegiance to Zimbabwe and observe the laws of Zimbabwe”.
Zanu PF defeated a fierce challenge from the 13-year-old MDC in the July 31 elections which were marred by allegations of massive vote rigging.
The ruling party won 197 of the 270 seats, while the mainstream MDC captured 70. Two seats went to a smaller MDC opposition party and one to an independent candidate.
The Parliament secretariat said in a statement that lawmakers were entitled to be accompanied by their spouses and not more than three children under 18 to witness the occasion.
Immediately after the swearing-in, a new Speaker and Senate president will be elected through secret ballot which will be held under the supervision of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).
Zanu PF has nominated Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission chairman Jacob Mudenda as candidate for Speaker and also want to retain Edna Madzongwe as Senate president.
The MDC has said it will not second a candidate for speaker and will abstain from the vote, a move angrily rejected as useless “frolics” by Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo.
The successful candidates must be sworn in by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, before they commence their duties.
With more than the two-thirds majority needed for the National Assembly to pass a Bill amending the Constitution, Mugabe’s Zanu PF will command the new assembly, giving it significant leverage to make changes to the new Constitution adopted on May 22, that curbs presidential powers and imposes two five-year presidential terms limits.
Mugabe took up the reins of power for an unprecedented seventh term when he was sworn-in on August 22, marking the beginning of the new Parliament’s five-year term.
Former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who is on a nationwide whirlwind tour, said the nation’s opportunity to bring a new government through elections was stolen by Zanu PF, but said the people’s desire for change remain unshaken.
“I was in Midlands Province today where I met the provincial council before proceeding to Bulawayo where I met all provincial structures,” Tsvangirai said on Friday.
“I then separately met the Bulawayo Provincial Council. They were very productive meetings and the mood is inspiring.
“I will not betray the people’s agenda by abandoning the fight for a new Zimbabwe. It is clear from my continued engagement with the people that the commitment to press ahead with the struggle remains unshaken.”
Zimbabwe’s 33-year history has been punctuated by extended periods of Zanu PF rule. The country achieved its democratic milestone by completing its full five-year term under a coalition government blighted by policy discord and bitter disputes on July 31.
Zanu PF leaders said they will work with the opposition to take on the various problems confronting the country, with senior ruling party figures saying they will “closely coordinate with the opposition to tackle the enormous problems facing our country.”
But the problems facing Mugabe’s new government are enormous — a failing economy, endless power and water cuts and rampant corruption.
Mugabe will formally open Parliament soon, probably on Thursday. A horse-drawn procession will carry the veteran ruler from State House to Parliament to formally mark the start of Zimbabwe’s 8th Parliament, with the opposition MDC planning to boycott the most colourful event of the legislative calendar.
The annual State opening of Parliament — sullied by the MDC boycott — is a key moment for Mugabe and in it he explains the coming policies and proposed laws for the future year.
The official State opening mixes modern day events with centuries of spectacular though often curious colonial traditions.
Despite the MDC’s boycott threat, Mugabe will take part in the State opening of Parliament with all the requisite pomp and pageantry.
Due to allegations of electoral fraud and the intricate business of the two rival political parties having to cooperate after the MDC said it will participate in the 8th Parliament even though it is boycotting Mugabe’s State Parliament opening ceremony, the 89-year-old leader will also have to contend with hundreds of rival party supporters cheering their chosen lawmakers as they arrive for the ceremony.
Analysts say Mugabe has “consolidated power” within his ruling party after tough parliamentary elections.
Exactly a month after his Zanu PF survived the disputed poll, Mugabe will soon name a new Cabinet.
Analysts say his handling of the economic crisis will be a deciding factor for his presidency.
Trevor Maisiri, a senior analyst for International Crisis Group, said the top priority for Zimbabwe was the economy.
“Despite what some in Zanu PF have said, the country desperately needs new injection capital, which local sources cannot provide,” Maisiri said. “The need is therefore for some level of foreign direct investments. The country also needs to continue discussions with multilateral institutions in restructuring its debt, which it can’t immediately pay for. There is also a great need for humanitarian aid to address food shortages, water, health, education and other social services. This has historically been provided by the donor community.”
Maxwell Saungweme, a development specialist, said Mugabe’s main challenge was an economy plagued by a high sovereign debt, unemployment, collapsed manufacturing sector, liquidity constraints and crises in the banking sector.
“He also faces the succession issue and divisions in his party,” Saungweme said.
“This and the questioned legitimacy of his re-election threaten his legacy. His legacy is his main worry at this juncture.
“He would need to work with everyone, including MDC to solve the economic challenges.
Zimbabwe is battling economic stagnation, with severe shortages of foreign currency and unemployment at record highs.
The economic crisis has been compounded by Mugabe’s controversial plans to seize foreign firms for black redistribution.
“He would need to shelve or moderate the indigenisation policy to allow foreign capital inflows and investments,” Saungweme said.
Analysts said Mugabe must assemble a business-friendly Cabinet, but much-needed foreign aid will be tied to critical policy changes on the economy and the indigenisation issue.
Maisiri said Mugabe’s Cabinet will probably be formulated along the lines of trying to communicate the softening of hardliner stance and the accommodation of progressive business and developmental thinking.
“Mugabe cannot afford to continue allowing government to operate on populist policy principles rather than progressive policy foundations able to create sustainable growth in the economy,” he said.
“Mugabe will also reach out to the business sector to try and build a partnership, much against what we have seen of Zanu PF governments in the past.