Mugabe recalls Zimbabwe parliament
The announcement from the legislative clerk received on Thursday gave no reason for the decision to open parliament early on June 9.
But the statement indicated the session would look at a proposal by the ruling ZANU-PF party to add an upper house to Zimbabwe's parliament for the first time since independence in 1980.
"Challenges for the new parliament include amendment of the constitution to enable the formation of an upper house, the Senate," state radio said.
However, ruling party sources say the early passage of the Senate Bill will save Mugabe the blushes after he appointed Sithembiso Nyoni into his Cabinet, although she has no constituency. The constitution limits the period during which a minister without a constituency can serve to three months.
The new parliament will meet in an atmosphere of ongoing crisis in Zimbabwe, where the economy is in a tailspin with shortages of foreign exchange, fuel and other commodities.
Zimbabwe looked ready to receive several hundred thousand tonnes of U.N. food aid after Mugabe told a visiting senior U.N. official this week that he would welcome the help.
But the Southern African country remains in the grip of a serious drought and aid agencies say up to 4 million people -- or one third of the population -- might need food help.
Mugabe's government has also come in for fresh international criticism in recent days amid an on-going crackdown on illegal shacks and shantytowns around major urban areas that has seen more than 22,000 people arrested.
Officials say the operation is aimed at stamping out black market trading and other lawlessness, and have rejected charges from the opposition which says it is a political vendetta against its largely urban support base.
Mugabe's ZANU-PF won 78 of the 120 elected seats in the March vote and is guaranteed another 30 under constitutional provisions which allow Mugabe to directly appoint 20 legislators and draw another 10 from Zimbabwe's traditional leaders -- known as ZANU-PF loyalists.
The total puts ZANU-PF well above the two-thirds majority it needs to change the constitution, and the party has indicated one of its priorities is to establish a new 65-member upper house, the Senate, which analysts say could further strengthen Mugabe's hold over the country.
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has challenged the election results in a number of constituencies, alleging widespread fraud.
The MDC won 41 seats, 16 fewer than the last parliamentary polls in 2000 which it also says were fraudulent. Western governments have also accused Mugabe of rigging the March vote, charges the government rejects.
On Wednesday, MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai said the party's legislators would take their seats in the new parliament despite the party's court challenge to the validity of the vote.
"I don't see
any contradiction between taking what you have won and claiming what
has been stolen from you," Tsvangirai told Reuters. "(Parliament)
is a forum we cannot afford to ignore." - Reuters
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