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vote stalls Mugabe's march
Jason Moyo, Mail and Gaurdian (SA)
April 01, 2011
A rare defeat
at the hands of his opponents in a vote for the speaker of Zimbabwe's
Parliament this week checked the momentum President Robert Mugabe
has built up in his march towards an unpopular election later this
the chairperson of Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) faction, was voted
into the key position, defeating Zanu-PF's Simon Khaya Moyo,
also chairperson of his party. In recent weeks Tsvangirai appeared
cornered - senior officials of his party were being arrested and
police banned MDC rallies on the pretext that an uprising would
be sparked if they were allowed.
Had Zanu-PF won the vote
it would have added impetus to its crusade to drive the MDC out
of the unity government and force a fresh election. Tsvangirai had
been meeting regional leaders ahead of a meeting of the Southern
African Development Community troika on defence and security on
Thursday, hoping to convince them to stall Mugabe's bid to hold
elections amid indications that they will not be free and fair.
With Zimbabwe's Parliament
finely balanced, the seat of speaker is critical as the holder has
influence over how legislation is formulated. However, in the bitter
fight for power in the coalition, the victory had a more symbolic
significance. Following the vote, MDC MPs sang and danced in Parliament
to celebrate a rare victory over Mugabe. Tendai Biti, the MDC secretary
general, said: "What happened today is that evil will never
triumph over good."
The vote was
ordered after the Supreme
Court ruled that the previous election that had seen the MDC
take the post -- the first time a non-Zanu-PF official had been
speaker -- was flawed. MDC MPs invalidated the poll by showing their
ballots to their leaders before voting, the court ruled.
thing to do'
the Zanu-PF MP who brought the court action reversing the 2008 vote,
said the "civilised thing to do" would be to congratulate
the winner. The day of the vote itself was one of high drama as
the MDC paraded $25 000 in wads of cash it claimed had been offered
as bribes to its MPs
to convince them to vote for the Zanu-PF candidate.
Ahead of the
vote Energy Minister Elton Mangoma was arrested,
for the second time in a
month, in connection with a state tender, raising fears that
Zanu-PF was looking to reduce the MDC's numbers. Mangoma did not
vote, but five other MPs facing various charges were able to make
their cross. Theresa Makone, co-minister of home affairs, the ministry
in charge of the police, reappeared on the day of the vote after
days of speculation that she was in hiding from the police.
The arrests and threats
of arrest threatened to whittle down the numbers of the MDC in Parliament.
This and the crackdown on rallies were what prompted Tsvangirai
to seek help from regional leaders. Last week he met President Jacob
Zuma at Nkandla, asking him to press Mugabe to stop cracking down
on his opponents and stick to the agreed roadmap for elections.
the regional tour, during which Tsvangirai met the leaders of Zambia,
Mozambique and Namibia, Tsvangirai said that he had told Zuma that
Mugabe was no longer in charge but that "dark
and sinister forces" in the security system had taken over.
That both factions of
the MDC united for the vote renewed calls for them to end their
differences and forge a united front against Mugabe. But this is
unlikely to happen, as the leaders of the two factions remain bitterly
Welshman Ncube, who heads
the smaller MDC faction, said ahead of the vote that although his
party would back Tsvangirai's candidate, he would do so more to
"protect fundamental democratic principles" than because
his party was ready for any accommodation.
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