|01/08/2000 16:22 - (SA)|
MPs of the ruling Zimbabwe National African Union - Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), notorious in the past for sleeping through parliamentary sessions or skipping them altogether, will on Tuesday take up less than two-thirds of the seats in the 150-member assembly.
With 57 seats for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and one for the small Zanu-Ndonga party following the June elections, parliament has never had so many opposition members since independence in 1980.
Debate is set to open at 2.15pm (1215 GMT).
MDC Secretary General Welshman Ncube said the first order of business would be a debate on the speech made by President Robert Mugabe when he officially opened the body on 20 July.
"We will talk more about what he (Mugabe) didn't say", in his opening speech, Ncube said, adding that the speech showed that he was unaware that "the country stands on the verge of economic and political collapse".
The general strike set to begin on Wednesday has been called to protest lawlessness in rural areas linked to Mugabe's controversial land reform policies and to press him to rescue the agricultural sector from collapse.
Thousands of liberation war veterans have occupied - often violently - some 1 600 white-owned farms since February, killing at least four white farmers and three black labourers in the run-up to the elections.
Reports of violence and intimidation against white owners and black workers alike have continued unabated since.
The veterans have rejected High Court rulings that their occupations are illegal, and the government has not intervened to force them off the farms.
Ncube said the MDC would call for the "removal of the thugs from the farms and the townships".
The MDC on Saturday urged its members to participate in the stayaway, initiated by civic groups and endorsed by the powerful Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) on Friday. It is also backed by the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), which represents most of the country's 4 500 white farmers.
Ncube, in launching the call on MDC members to join the strike, said the opposition called on the government "as a matter of urgency (to) withdraw the war veterans from the farms, who are busy raping, beating and killing farm workers".
Ncube told AFP on Tuesday that the opposition would condemn Mugabe's failure in his opening speech "to appreciate the economic crisis, failure to put forward a plan for economic recovery, the failure to address the economic fundamentals of high inflation, high budget deficit, high interest rates, et cetera, et cetera".
"We will focus also on the political situation - lawlessness, insecurity. Again, it was conspicuously absent in his speech," Ncube said.
In his address, Mugabe vowed to accelerate the land resettlement programme, promising at least five million hectares (12.5 million acres) of land to black peasants.
"This should result in increased agricultural production and promotion of economic indigenisation," Mugabe said. - Sapa-AFP