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Zimbabwe House Speaker Contest Heats Up; ZANU-PF Nominates Chairman

ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told the Herald newspaper that the party did not impose Simon Khaya Moyo but nominated him because of his long experience as a lawmaker and diplomat

The battle lines have been drawn in the looming contest to elect a new Zimbabwean House speaker following ZANU-PF's nomination of party chairman Simon Khaya Moyo as its candidate, facing former speaker Lovemore Moyo of the Movement for Democratic Change formation headed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

The Supreme Court earlier this month invalidated Lovemore Moyo's 2008 election.

House sittings have been suspended since early this week. Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma on Tuesday suspended parliamentary sittings for an indefinite period saying he would announce a date for the election when preparations had been made.

The Tsvangirai MDC formation on Wednesday filed an urgent chamber application in the Harare High Court asking it to order Zvoma to reconvene parliament.

Chief Whip Innocent Gonese of the Tsvangirai MDC told VOA reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the party believes it has enough votes to reclaim the speaker’s post.

Deputy President Edwin Mushoriwa of the MDC formation headed by Welshman Ncube said the party will stick to its position and decline to participate in the ballot.

ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo could not be reached for comment. But he told the Herald newspaper that the party did not impose Khaya Moyo but nominated him because of his long experience as a lawmaker and diplomat as former envoy to South Africa.

For perspective on the race for speaker - some now refer to the contest as Moyo versus Moyo – VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira turned to political analyst Charles Mangongera and commentator Goodson Nguni, who has ties with ZANU-PF.

Mangongera said ZANU-PF will pull out all stops to ensure it wins the speaker’s post. But Nguni said ZANU-PF is "not losing sleep" over the speaker's election, because it won't be long before Zimbabwe will have a new parliament in any case.

The Tsvangirai MDC meanwhile charged that police and prosecutors are targeting its members of Parliament to reduce the number of votes the party can muster.

The party said lawmaker Costin Muguti of the Gokwe-Kabuyini constituency in Midlands province was re-arrested on Wednesday for failing to appear in court to face charges of alleged political violence. An MDC statement said Muguti was re-arrested outside Kwekwe prison just after being granted bail by a Kwekwe magistrate pending trial on separate charges of threatening a Zhombe chief.

The MDC said Muguti failed to appear in court initially because of ill health. It said he was being held at Kwekwe Central police station and denied medical attention

MDC spokeswoman Tabitha Khumalo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that the arrest reflects a ZANU-PF strategy of arresting as many MDC lawmakers as possible to influence the coming House vote for a new speaker.

Separately, a driver for Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe was arrested Wednesday for allegedly writing obscene words on a ZANU-PF petition against Western travel and financial sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and others.

The MDC said the driver, Witness Dube, initially tried to resist pressure by ZANU-PF militants to sign the petition. The party said the driver was being detained at Nkulumane Police Station in Bulawayo.