Change of political turf: What lies ahead?

OPINION – DURING her long tenure in Parliament ZANU-PF legislator for Gutu South, Shuvai Mahofa, would break into her trademark song: Zimbabwe Ndeyeropa each time the ruling party imposed its will in the House of Assembly.

Mahofa lost her bid to retain her seat for the seventh time when she was defeated by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)’s Elphas Mukonoweshuro in the March 29 polls.

When President Robert Mugabe opened Parliament on Tuesday in Mahofa’s absence, it was the turn of MDC legislators to sing: ZANU yaora, setting the stage for confrontation between the legislature and the executive.

When President Mugabe said he was hopeful that a deal would be reached between the opposition and ZANU-PF, MDC legislators heckled him saying they already had a pact with the people. They accused him of marring the June 27 poll by orchestrating violence against the electorate.

"What lies ahead is a very serious constitutional crisis," an analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

"It points to the reality that no one party is capable of ruling this country alone. The country will be ungovernable. That is why the negotiations mediated by President Thabo Mbeki were so essential to prevent the devil hidden within. That devil will lead us to hell.
"The parties may continue like this to see who gives up first, but unfortunately the record is there for all to see: it is the people who have suffered," he said.

This week the MDC consolidated its grip on the House of Assembly after Lovemore Moyo, the national chairman of the MDC formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai, won the post of Speaker with Nomalanga Khumalo, from the Arthur Mutambara-led formation, being elected his deputy.

ZANU-PF’s bid to block Moyo’s election by backing the Mutambara formation’s candidate, Paul Themba Nyathi, failed when opposition legislators rallied behind the Tsvangirai formation’s nominee.

But the ruling party retained control of the Senate where it and the opposition have an equal number of elected representatives. ZANU-PF’s numbers were boosted by the presence of 18 chiefs, 10 governors and three non-constituency senators.

Constitutionally while the Senate cannot block legislation, but can delay it, the House of Assembly’s authority to overrule the Senate, where ZANU-PF still has control, poses headaches for President Mugabe.

The head of state’s worries are worsened by the fact that the House of Assembly can overrule him if he declines to sign legislation into law.

When he cannot assent to legislation, the President info-rms the legislative assembly in writing of his reasons for opposing that law. Even so, he would be obliged to take the necessary steps to bring the law into effect once the House of Assembly votes to override him.

A two-thirds majority is necessary for the House of Assembly to overrule President Mugabe, raising the question whether he would comply with parliament’s veto.
In addition, ministers will face more scrutiny by parliamentary committees that will expose their failings and decline to endorse their decisions.

"When the arms of the state do not co-operate, it will degenerate into rule by decree that will weaken and undermine those arms that do not have coercive powers such as the judiciary and parliament," the analyst said.

"The only arm that has a monopoly on violence and coercion is the executive. The President can dismiss the judiciary and dissolve parliament," said the commentator, adding that Presi-dent Mugabe was bound to resort to Presidential Powers to manoeuvre.
Electoral and Media lawyer Chris Mhike said ZANU-PF was likely to use a combination of political diplomacy and bravado. It would arrest and harass opposition MPs to create the space needed.

In terms of diplomatic tactics, Mhike alluded to the party’s decision to back Nyathi for the speaker’s post, thereby reaching convergence with opposition figures such as MDC Mutambara’s Lupane MP Njab-uliso Mguni who nominated him and independent Tsholotsho MP Jona-than Moyo who seconded the nomination.

"ZANU-PF has started taking definitive steps to stem the revolt by opposition MPs so to speak. At least two MPs were arrested yesterday and there was an attempt to arrest a third, Elton Mangoma," Mhike said.

Mangoma is a member of the MDC’s negotiating team.

Mhike said progressive laws could be expected from Parliament as opposition legislators who have opposed some repressive statutes turn their advocacy into action.

A ruling party source said ZANU-PF would not lose sleep if the MDC blocked any legislation as it feels that it already has a raft of laws to serve its purposes after enacting controversial legislation dealing with land matters.

It also has repressive laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Public Order and Security Act and the Indigenisation and Empowerment Act to resort to.

"The only thing that may cause them a little discomfort is the issue of the budget; a little discomfort because that will not stop them. They have been printing money all along," the source said. – Financial Garzette