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Re-Election of Zimbabwe House Speaker Grows Increasingly Contentious

Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvomo has raised the stakes by contending that former speaker Lovemore Moyo is no longer a member of parliament and thus cannot cast a ballot in the election of a new speaker

The election of a new speaker of Zimbabwe's House of Assembly has become wrapped in contention and confusion following Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma’s controversial decision this week to adjourn the House even before it could return from break.

The Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minster Morgan Tsvangirai has embarked on a two-pronged approach to resolve this latest crisis. Sources said Mr. Tsvangirai met with President Robert Mugabe and Zvoma to clear the air.

But his wing of the Movement for Democratic Change has filed an application in the Supreme Court asking it to rule that Zvoma’s decision was unconstitutional.

Zvoma has raised the stakes by contending that the former speaker, Lovemore Moyo of Mr. Tsvangirai's formation of the Movement for Democratic Change, was no longer a member of parliament and won’t be allowed to vote for the new speaker.

Moyo’s lawyer, Chris Mhike, said he and his client were in negotiations with Zvoma in hopes of resolving that question before resorting to legal action.

Zvoma told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu he will consult with President Robert Mugabe to set a date for the speaker’s election, but said that Moyo, having resigned his House seat in 2008 following his election as speaker, could not cast a vote.

The Zimbabwean Supreme Court ruled on March 10 that Moyo's election was invalid as MDC lawmakers had shown their ballots to party leaders before casting them. The ruling overturned a High Court ruling in a suit brought by ZANU-PF lawmaker Jonathan Moyo.

In a related development, ministers were expected to meet Wednesday in a special Cabinet session to take up a range of issues troubling Harare's unity government. Sources said the meeting could determine the longevity of the government.

Government sources said the special session was necessary due to the chaos that has characterized recent cabinet meetings. They said little business has been handled as ministers from the two main parties exchanged recriminations and barbs.

Political analyst Takura Zhangazha said ending the unity government won't be easy.

Meanwhile, Mr. Tsvangirai softened comments he made following the Supreme Court ruling that stripped Moyo of the speaker’s post, in an e-mailed statement emphasizing that he respects the independence of the Zimbabwean judiciary.

Following the March 10th ruling Mr. Tsvangirai issued a statement saying the MDC “will not accept the decisions of some ZANU-PF politicians masquerading as judges.”

ZANU-PF officials said Mr. Tsvangirai should be charged with contempt of court with some reports saying the attorney general was mulling charges.

But in a carefully-worded statement issued late Tuesday, Mr. Tsvangirai said his earlier comments reflected “an immediate reaction against a judgment that affected the morale of my party," essentially walking back his earlier comments.

Tsvangirai spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the prime minister was neither apologizing nor retracting but merely clarifying his position.

However, political analyst Bhekilizwe Ndlovu told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that Mr. Tsvangirai’s latest statement was a thinly-veiled apology that the state might use against him if it brings contempt of court charges against him.

Many listeners joining a discussion Wednesday on the VOA Studio 7 LiveTalk program expressed the view that Mr. Tsvangirai should not have apologized given ZANU-PF's longstanding politicization and manipulation of the Zimbabwean judiciary.

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