The newly elected members of Zimbabwe’s controversial reinstituted senate were sworn in Wednesday with the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe holding an overwhelming majority controlling 59 of the 66 upper house seats.
The ruling party won 43 of the 50 elective seats with only seven claimed by the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change. President Mugabe names six senators and another 10 seats are filled by chiefs and other traditional leaders.
Mr. Mugabe distributed seats to ZANU-PF Deputy Finance Secretary Kantibal Patel and two other ruling party members, Joshua Malinga and Tazvitya Mapfumo, along with businessmen Aguy Georgias and Peter Haritotis. He named Edna Madzongwe as senate president, and ZANU-PF stalwart Naison Ndlovu as her deputy.
Observers said the senate inauguration erased all doubts as to President Mugabe’s intention of staying in office past the expiration of his current term in 2008.
Parliamentary liason officer Herman Honekom of the Africa Institute in South Africa said the Zimbabwean senate, revived through a constitutional amendment rammed through the lower house earlier this year by the ruling party using its two-thirds majority, further shields Mr. Mugabe from dissent among the political elite.
Mr. Honekom told reporter Chinedu Offor of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the true purpose of the senate is to reward Mr. Mugabe’s loyal supporters and ensure their continuing loyalty, as opposed to meeting any legitimate political need.