ZANU PF/MDC-Tsvangirai Fight For Power Spills Into Parliament

Lovemore Moyo, the Speaker of Zimbabwe's Parliament, is now engaged in an ugly and unprofessional turf war with the Clerk of Parliament, whom the MDC-Tsvangirai faction sees as a ZANU PF appointee. It is a continuation of the turf war between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, with the Prime Minister and his party trying to assert their authority as the largest party in parliament. This has led them to see conspiracies everywhere, including in the professional conduct of the Clerk. The Clerk stands his ground and it appears that there is nothing the MDC-T can do to him since he is playing it by the book, while Tsvangirai's party wants him to "get with the programme."

Harare, Zimbabwe, 20 December 2009

The fight for political space and authority between ZANU PF and Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC has now spilled into parliament, with the Clerk of Parliament, the long-serving Austin Zvoma, threatening legal action against the MDC-Tsvangirai-appointed Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo for "defamation."

The fight has been a long time coming.

The MDC-Tsvangirai, controlling parliament for the first time in its history, has always been suspicious that the Clerk of Parliament is a ZANU PF person and that he continues to work in the interests of Mugabe's party in parliament, undermining the authority of the new majority party in the House, the MDC-Tsvangirai.

I know Austin Zvoma personally and I can vouch for the fact that the man has always been a professional in the way he approaches his duties. So professional, in fact, that at one time, Didymus Mutasa tried to get him fired.

And it is not only Mutasa. At least three other MPs from ZANU PF, including one previous "Leader of The House", have complained directly to Mugabe's Politburo about what they felt was disrespect from Zvoma.

What has always saved him is the fact that Zvoma plays it by the book and it is difficult to pin him down as a sympathiser of one party or the other.

But the latest rift with the new Speaker of parliament is a result of Moyo being rather wet behind the ears in his Speaker's Chair. He feels that he should exercise executive authority within the House and be its de facto Chief Executive Officer.

Last week, the Speaker asked one of his assistants to type up a letter of reprimand to the Clerk of Parliament, accusing him of overstepping the boundaries and dealing with matters that should be seen to by the Speaker himself.

Tellingly, the Speaker accuses the Clerk of Parliament of actively seeking to get involved in the cases of MDC-T MPs who are facing criminal charges in various courts and "going on to send written correspondence to those who were sentenced without the Speaker's authority."

Those of us who have been following the cases of expelled MPs will know that the Speaker was threatened with legal action by the Mutambara MDC after they accussed him of dragging his feet on the issue of expelling Mutambara MPs who had been fired from that party and had, as a result, lost their seats.

In fact, the Speaker was accused of unprofessional conduct because he started going around addressing people in the affected MPs' constituencies in the company of the fired MPs. In other words, he pursued a partisan agenda and thereby compromised his professional integrity.

His party interest appears to also be informing his fight with the Clerk of Parliament.

Zvoma has responded to the Speaker by quoting chapter and verse from the Constitution of Zimbabwe as it stands now and insisting that he has done nothing wrong. He accuses the Speaker of not understanding the Constitution and backs up his claims with quotes from the Standing Rules and the Constitution.

"I do not expect a person holding the position of Speaker to make unfounded, irresponsible and reprehensible allegations and proceed to draw wild and untrue conclusions," Zvoma said in a letter to the Speaker.

He continues: "The tone and tenor of the Speaker's memo demonstrates that he has not read the Constitution and other relevant documents thoroughly or that is badly advised."

Zvoma pointedly tells Moyo that, although he is Speaker, he is "not Head of Parliament."

Like I said above, the real issue here is the MDC-T's belief that it is now the party that holds sway in Zimbabwe by virtue of its parliamentary majority. This, therefore, is a continuation of the turf war between Mugabe and Tsvangirai.

Because Moyo is taking his orders from the Prime Minister, the MDC-T assumes also that the Clerk is running a shadow administration in Parliament which is taking orders from Mugabe, especially considering that it is the Clerk who communicates with the President on matters to do with the Bills that Parliament passes.

Zvoma's insistence that he is in the right and that he is constitutionally safe is only adding to the frustration felt by the MDC-Tsvangirai, which is failing to translate its Parliamentary majority into real power at all levels of government, relegated by the GPA to being simply a party of "policy formulation and implementation" as is described in Tsvangirai's Job Description.


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