THE country’s main political parties are positioning themselves to secure the Speaker’s post when MPs elected in March are sworn-in on Monday.
With a hung parliament, Zanu PF and the two formations of the MDC cannot individually elect a speaker in the 210-member House of Assembly.
Zanu PF will however determine the president of the Senate because it has a majority in the chamber.
In the March 29 House of Assembly elections, the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC won 100 seats against Zanu PF’s 99 with the Arthur Mutambara-led faction of the MDC managing 10 seats. An independent candidate won the other seat.
Sources in the parties told the Zimbabwe Independent that despite the MDC formations having signed a parliamentary coalition pact to work as a united front, the factions will nominate different candidates for the Speaker’s post.
The sources said in the ongoing talks for a negotiated settlement, Zanu PF had reportedly backed the Mutambara faction’s secretary-general Welshman Ncube for the post, but the law professor turned down the offer.
“Zanu PF is likely to back a candidate from Mutambara’s faction,” one of the sources said. “Zanu PF were initially prepared to back Ncube, but he said no. “Tsvangirai’s faction had, however, rejected the proposal of Ncube as Speaker, preferring Gibson Sibanda.”
The sources said Tsvangirai’s formation has since endorsed Matobo North MP-elect and party national chairperson Lovemore Moyo as its candidate for the Speaker’s chair while Mutambara’s group settled for its elections director Paul Themba Nyathi.
Besides Moyo, the Tsvangirai camp had reportedly entertained the idea of nominating either its South Africa-based treasurer general Roy Bennett or former Zanu PF politburo member Dumiso Dabengwa.
Pauline Mpariwa, the party’s labour secretary, was also once considered for the powerful post. The sources said Zanu PF may consider fielding a candidate from its ranks hoping that the over 10 MDC-T MPs-elect reportedly in hiding or outside the country would not pitch-up on Monday and that some legislators from the Mutambara camp would vote with them.
Tsvangirai’s party claims that some of its MPs went into hiding before the June presidential run-off to avoid arrest.
The sources said Zanu PF was doing all in its power to ensure that an MDC-T candidate is not elected parliamentary Speaker.
“Zanu PF is aware that a combined opposition vote will result in an MDC-Tsvangirai Speaker and in a bid to divide the opposition they are backing Nyathi’s candidacy so as to frustrate the MDC-Tsvangirai,” a source said.
Edwin Mushoriwa, the MDC spokesperson, confirmed that the party’s national council endorsed Nyathi on Wednesday as its candidate for the Speaker’s post.
“The party’s national council met on Wednesday and endorsed Paul Themba Nyathi as our Speaker of parliament candidate and we believe as a smaller party in parliament we can provide a neutral Speaker, not from Zanu PF or the MDC Tsvangirai faction, who will lead constructive debates,” Mushoriwa said.
Zanu PF information committee chairperson Patrick Chinamasa declined to reveal who his party had nominated or confirm that they would back Nyathi. “The matter is internal and divulging such information is not strategic,” Chinamasa said. “I have no further comment on that.”
MDC-Tsvangirai spokesperson Tapiwa Mashakada said his party would not disclose the candidate at the moment, but confirmed that they will vie for the post.
“At this stage it would not be suitable for me to disclose the candidate we have but we are vying for the speaker’s position,” Mashakada said.
Sources said Zanu PF and the Mutambara faction should not expect an easy ride during the Speaker’s election; the majority of the opposition party in Matabeleland were angry at the manner Mutambara has handled the current Sadc-initiated talks with Mugabe.
The MPs accused Mutamabara of appearing desperate for power and of having agreed on almost everything Mugabe put on the negotiating table.
The swearing-in of parliament will take place on Monday next week five months since the last parliament adjourned.
Parliamentary clerk, Austin Zvoma, confirmed this week that MPs would be sworn in on Monday and that President Robert Mugabe would officially open parliament the following day.
“After the swearing-in ceremonies, members of the House of Assembly and Senators will respectively proceed to elect the Speaker and deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly and the President and the deputy President of the Senate in accordance with provisions of Sections 35 and 39 of the Constitution,” Zvoma told journalists in Harare on Wednesday.
The formation of a cabinet is expected to follow the reconvening of parliament in accordance with the country’s constitution.
A summit of Sadc held last weekend resolved that Zimbabwe’s parliament may need to be convened while negotiations continued “to give effect to the will of the people” as expressed in March.
Negotiations between Zanu PF and the MDC formations on power-sharing remained deadlocked after the parties failed to reach an agreement on the powers Mugabe and Tsvangirai should exercise.
By Loughty Dube