Chaos as 8th Parliament opens

President Robert Mugabe

THE Second Session of the Eighth Parliament got off to a farcical start with legislators shoving and pushing as they all tried to fit into the august House for President Robert Mugabe’s official opening.

Up to 100 legislators may have been turned away as the Parliament building can only accommodate 200 yet there are 270 parliamentarians. Legislators had to jostle for both standing and sitting places and in the ensuing melée a glass pane near the exit door was broken, Harare West parliamentarian, Jessie Majome said in an update to her constituents.

“The shoving and pushing for seats inside the chamber was so crude and undignified. Most un-parliamentary,” she said.

Majome said some Zanu PF members occupied opposition benches “and insolently refused to vacate our spaces”.

Meanwhile, Mugabe steered clear of a succession struggle raging in his Zanu PF party following his wife’s sensational attempt to force his deputy out of office.

As the 90-year-old addressed the new Parliament, dozens of Zanu PF members sang his praises outside the building, but also taunted each other over factional allegiances in the party that has run Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.

Mugabe, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, said he would invest in infrastructure, offer free fertilizer and seed to farmers and revise tax and labour laws to improve an investment climate clouded by his nationalist policies.

He made no direct reference to the succession battle in his party, which went into overdrive this month when his wife, Grace, attacked Vice-President Joice Mujuru and accused her of plotting to oust Mugabe at a party congress in December.

Throughout the ceremony, Grace exchanged no words with Mujuru, who sat next to Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, smiling and sharing jokes.

She has made no formal response to Grace’s accusations.

In his 25-minute speech, the veteran leader threatened action against blacks who derailed the empowerment drive — known locally as indigenisation — by acting as fronts for foreigners.

“It is depressing that some of our people have turned themselves into mere fronts for foreign investors, thus defeating the fundamental objective,” Mugabe said.

“Decisive action shall indeed be taken to address these negative developments.”

– Staff Reporter/Reuters