MPs sent home as House is broke

HARARE – Zimbabwe's parliament has been forced to adjourn until November 11, after running out of money to sustain its operations as delays in setting up an inclusive government continues to paralyse national institutions.

The assembly only started sitting early this month, six months after the March elections due to the political impasse blamed on President Robert Mugabe’s controversial re-election.

The suspension of parliament was announced by the acting leader of the House, Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ruling Zanu PF, after the feuding parties came together to support a motion to declare the gripping food shortages in the country a national disaster.

"Because of the constraints relating to the non-existence of the inclusive government, the House will not be sitting for a while," he said.

"In the event measures are put in place, we may be able to call for the sitting of the House at a much earlier date."

Parliamentarians were told that the government had run out of money to pay for their accommodation and allowances during their sessions.

Critical phase

Talks to conclude the setting up of the power sharing agreement between the ruling party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party reach a critical phase on Monday when regional leaders visit Harare.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) troika on security will try to persuade Mr Mugabe and his rivals Mr Morgan Tsvangirai and Prof Arthur Mutambara to finalise the allocation of Cabinet posts.

The setting up of the inclusive government has been in the works since September 15, when the three leaders signed an historic power sharing pact to end Zimbabwe’s decade old political and economic crisis.

Parliament is expected to approve a constitution amendment giving force to the power sharing arrangement and disruption of its settings might further delay the process.

Compared to other law makers in the region, Zimbabwean legislators are poorly paid, with their monthly salaries averaging less than $5 (Sh400).

They also complain that they had been informed that the government currently had no money to buy vehicles for the 210 House of Assembly members and 96 senators.

Zimbabwe’s worsening economic crisis and the threat of a major food crisis has injected urgency to the process of establishing a new government.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai will attend a summit next week meant to rescue a stalled power-sharing deal and use it to lay out his grievances against President Robert Mugabe, the MDC said on Friday.

Mr Tsvangirai had threatened to boycott the talks, saying an election may be needed to break a deadlock in negotiations with Mugabe over control of cabinet seats in a new government.

He snubbed a similar meeting in Swaziland on Monday citing Harare’s refusal to give him a new passport.

But the MDC said today he would attend the October 27 summit in Harare.

"Monday’s platform presents us with a perfect opportunity to articulate our compelling case for equitable and sustainable power-sharing in a unity government. So we will be there…," Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.

The MDC says Mugabe is trying to seize important ministries and sideline the opposition and Chamisa cited a "litany" of Zanu-PF actions he said went against the spirit of a power-sharing deal signed more than a month ago.

"You have the issue of the passport, the hate language used by state media, threats by war veterans, all those things will be presented to SADC and in the process (we will) try to make Zanu-PF see the profit of working together," he said.

Zimbabwe’s militant war veterans threatened this week to "take action" against Tsvangirai. The MDC has accused war veterans loyal to Mugabe of attacking its supporters.

Tsvangirai and Mugabe signed the power-sharing deal brokered by South Africa’s former president Thabo Mbeki on Sept 15 but it has since stalled over who should run which ministries.

Fruitless talks

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe earlier urged Tsvangirai not to boycott the summit and said only more dialogue would break an impasse over cabinet posts.

"When you seek a solution to a problem, you talk to those that you disagree with," Mothlanthe said on South Africa’s public broadcaster SABC. "You can’t make peace with your friends. You make peace with your enemies, your adversaries."

Fed up with weeks of fruitless talks, the MDC leader did not attend an emergency Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Swaziland this week that was to address the Zimbabwe deadlock.

It was rescheduled.