Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Anxious expediency

Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's anxious leader has announced that parliament will open three weeks early. Consistent with his eagerness to consolidate his grip on all political machinizations in the country before his imminent departure in 2008, Mugabe has decreed that the parliamentary session will open on the ninth of this month as opposed to the 28th on which the debut was scheduled.

Several facts lend themselves plausible as reasons for this uncouth development. First, is the fact that ZANU-PF has a resolute grip on parliament in the aftermath of the March polls. The country has been relatively peaceful and they are eager to exploit opportunities they'll have with their two-thirds majority in parliament. The majority is important as it will allow them to change the constitution, which is top on their agenda. Mugabe & Co. are intent on reintroducing the senate as the upper house in the Zimbabwean legislature. See this too.

There's also pressure on Mugabe to ensure the lavish lifestyles of many of his henchmen who've been sidelined from powerful and lucrative cabinet posts. This pressure is heightened now after the alleged suicide of former housing minister Enos Chikowore who apparently took his own life after learning that he'd been left out when Mugabe made his cabinet and parliamentary appointments. The senate will provide just the opportunity mollify the complaints of many ZANU-PF stalwarts who find themselves afflicted by the same fate suffered by the common man not in government.

The senate proposal ratified by ZANU-PF's politburo, the party's supreme policy making body, sets out to create a 65 member senate with a seat allocation as follows: 50 elected senators (five from each of Zimbabwe's 10 provinces), 8 elected by the Zimbabwe Council of Chiefs (pro-Mugabe council), 5 presidential appointments from "key sectors of the economy such as farming," and the two governors from Harare (capital city) and Bulawayo (second city). From the get go, Mugabe has control of fifteen senate seats.

Since it is not yet clear whether incumbent parliamentarians will be allowed to contest for senate seats, I suspect ZANU-PF will permit this to allow them to impose their same candidates (from the March elections) for election and then ensure those people win by rigging and intimidation (as charged in the March polls). This strategy is better of for ZANU-PF than allowing their unknowns to contest agains already popular MDC candidates. By upgrading their parliamentarians to the senate as I propose, ZANU will then be able to substitute them by appointment (I'm sure they can write such a provision in the amendment), creating (possibly) up to 50 new spots for ZANU-PF. The senate will bring the number of Zimbabwe's legilators to 215 (excluding the 67 from Mugabe's cabinet which has already been criticized for it's size) for a population well under 13 million.

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