Refusal to swear new MDC President will be illegal – Official

Bulawayo,- An official of the smaller faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said refusal by President Robert Mugabe to swear in the party's newly elected President Professor Welshman Ncube as deputy prime minister will be illegal.

Qhubani Moyo, the national organising secretary of the party, told journalists at the press club here on Wednesday night that the MDC planned to put a formal request to Mugabe to swear in Ncube next week.

This comes amid reports that Ncube recently went "cap in hand" to beg Mugabe to be sworn in as one of Zimbabawe’s two Deputy Prime Ministers. In his new post, Ncube would thus replace his rival, Arthur Mutambara, who was recently shown the exit door by party members at the MDC-M Annual Congress in Harare.

The other deputy prime minister, Thokozani Khupe, belongs to the main faction of MDC led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Mugabe last week indicated that he would not endorse the proposed changes by the smaller MDC faction, unless Mutambara voluntarily resigned from government, noting that swearing in Ncube presented legal challenges.

"It creates legal matters, it complicates issues," President Mugabe said in Ethiopia last week.

"They were able to remove him politically, but legally he was sworn in as a Member of Parliament. I swore him in as Deputy Prime Minister. It is up to him if he wants to resign, but if he refuses, well, we are stuck, but the Global Political Agreement will go ahead."
He went on, amid lots of laughter from the gathering: "Ah, poor Mutambara, the people who invited you say you have overstayed."

Mugabe said the three Principles in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) had, in fact, worked extremely well since the truce was signed amid much pomp and fanfare at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) in 2009.

The three principals are Tsvangirai, Mutambara and himself who hail from the three major political parties in the House of Assembly.

"The GPA has run beautifully, to tell you the truth," President Mugabe is reported to have told Embassy staff and invited guests gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. "Yes, there are one or two things we have not agreed on. My side has not begged on the MDC proposal to remove AG Johannes Tomana, Governor (Dr Gideon Gono) and so on. Those are little things that have not gone well."

Mugabe said in fact despite these hiccups, he expected the government to continue working well to pave the way for harmonised elections expected anytime later this year.

Both he and Tsvangirai have actually welcomed the poll, saying it would help Zimbabwe get back to its international status and improve the struggling economy which at one time had the highest inflation rate in the world bashing Guiness Book of records figures.

“Mugabe’s pronouncements are nonsensical as we have not yet recommended to him a cabinet reshuffle. As soon as we inform the President officially, we expect him to follow the country’s constitution and reshuffle the coalition government as recommended by the party,” Moyo said in his response to journalists.

“The anger and fury from Mugabe and his spokesperson leaves one with a lot of questions…the MDC T recommended to Mugabe to swear in ministers that he had reshuffled and why then now would Mugabe refuse to swear in our DPM and our Ministers when we recommend a reshuffle in terms of the law.

“It will be illegal if he refuses…It’s all about tribalism.”

Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba was on Wednesday also quoted by the state-owned Herald newspaper that the veteran leader will not swear in Ncube as deputy prime minister as long as the issue of the MDC presidency remained disputed.

“Ncube cannot draw a comparison between the straightforward recommendations that the President got from MDC-T and his messy submission to the President.

“There are legal issues in the MDC case and it is not the business of the President to get entangled in them, let alone compound them, by simply obliging to a flawed request for fear of being labelled a tribalist. As a lawyer, Welshman must know that,” Charamba was quoted by the paper saying.

The MDC formed in 1999 by former trade union members split in 2005. Tsvangirai’s main faction of the party is commonly known as MDC-T while the smaller MDC faction was termed MDC-M until the recent changes. Ncube however, indicated this week that he wanted his faction to be known as the MDC only not MDC-M or MDC-N as reported by some media houses in Zimbabwe. He threatened that anyone who called the party by another name will be sued.

Zanu (PF) currently has the largest number of seats in Parliament courtesy of the fact that some MDC-T members of Parliament (MPs) have since died after the 2008 plebiscite.They have not been replaced.

It could not be established exactly how many seats are currently vacant in Parliament because the Public Relations Office of Parliament asked a Radio VOP reporter to get the facts from the Clerk of Parliament, Austin Zvoma, whose office had not returned calls as promised by the time of going to print.

However, during the 2008 election the MDC-T had the majority in the House of Assembly, closely followed by Zanu (PF).

Ironically, both Professor Mutambara and his rival, Professor Ncube, did not win any seats during the election.They were later given their seats as a "token" by their party which only managed to garner a mere three seats.

The seats were quickly snapped up by Mutambara, Ncube and Priscilla Misihairabwi, a current Minister in the Government of National Unity (GNU). She is in charge of investment issues for Zimbabwe.

No by-elections have been held to replace the dead MPs and insiders claimed that this could be a "deliberate ploy by the former ruling party Zanu (PF)" to "have a simple majority in the House in order to railroad unpopular Bills willynilly as happened when they voted for the controversial Indigenisation Bill which is now an Act.

The Act has apparently scared away potential investment in Zimbabwe and made life unbeareable for the mining industry whose major cash comes from foreigners.