Zimbabwean Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma on Tuesday suspended the sitting of the House of Assembly indefinitely saying he will announce a date for the election of a new speaker once necessary preparations have been made.
VOA Studio 7 correspondent Irwin Chifera reported from Harare.
Explaining his action suspending the sitting of the lower house which was scheduled to resume following a two-week break, Zvoma told reporters that the constitution, standing orders of Parliament and the Supreme court ruling that invalidated the 2008 election of Lovemore Moyo as speaker obliges him to go back to square one to fill the vacancy.
The Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai swiftly condemned the cancellation of the House sitting. The party had mobilized its forces hoping to return Moyo to his former post, recalling lawmakers from Europe.
Tsvangirai MDC secretary general Tendai Biti told journalists at parliament that Zvoma had no mandate to suspend the house sitting. Biti charged that Zvoma was being used by ZANU-PF which he said is seriously divided over who to put forward as its candidate for speaker. Biti said his party will ask the courts to reverse Zvoma's decision.
Further controversy loomed as Zvoma said he would not follow the legal opinion he had requested from Attorney General Johannes Tomana. The attorney general said Moyo remained a legislator in full and could vote in the forthcoming speaker election.
The MDC formation led by Welshman Ncube earlier said it would abstain in the election of speaker, but comments from party officials suggested this could change.
Ncube MDC Parliamentary Whip Edward Mkhosi said his party was not officially informed of the election so it did not have time to inform all of its lawmakers about its decision to abstain. He said the formation will now hold further meetings on the issue.
Mkhosi told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga that the party’s position could change if other party members say they want to field a candidate.
Alex Magaisa, a senior law lecturer at Kent Law School in England said Zvoma is within his legal mandate in adjourning parliament, but should remain impartial.