March 20, 2009
Morgan Tsvangirai (L) and Gibson Sibanda in happier days.
By Our Correspondent
HARARE – The Minister of State in the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, Gibson Sibanda has to secure a seat in Parliament within two months or risk losing his Cabinet post. Sibanda, who is the vice president of the smaller MDC party, was the last person to be sworn into office as Minister of State. By then all the non-constituent seats that were allocated to the Arthur Mutambara-led MDC had been taken up.
According to Section 31 E of the Zimbabwe Constitution, every minister or deputy minister must either be an MP or a Senator when appointed or become one within three months of appointment. Sibanda has already been in office for a month.
Mutambara himself was allocated an ex-officio seat in the House of Assembly on appointment as one of two Deputy Prime Ministers, while Prof Welshman Ncube and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga took up the other two seats in the Senate allocated to their party.
That left Sibanda in a quandary and facing the real prospect of losing his ministerial post. Sibanda lost his Nkulumane parliamentary seat in the March legislative polls last year. He was defeated by mainstream MDC youth chairman Thamsanqa Mahlangu, who is now Deputy Minister of Youth.
The embattled Mutambara MDC is said to have approached Siyabonga Malandu Ncube, who was elected to Parliament on its ticket in Insiza constituency to relinquish his seat in favour of Sibanda so as to save the party’s deputy president the embarrassment of losing the ministerial post he miraculously secured after enduring heavy defeat in the elections.
Ncube apparently refused to play ball.
Edward Mkosi Moyo, Bulilima MP was reportedly also approached. He was offered the position of provincial governor if he surrendered his seat to Sibanda. He too is reported to have decided to hang onto his parliamentary seat.
Informed sources say the Mutambara MDC party was now considering pleading with the mainstream MDC to donate one of its non-constituent seats. While the mainstream MDC party has four seats available to it in the Senate only three of its deputy ministers are without seats.
Deputy ministers Dr Tichaona Mudzingwa, Sesel Zvidzai and Roy Bennett will take up three of the four Senate seats, leaving the MDC free to choose one more Senator for appointment. Mutambara hopes to plead with Tsvangirai for that seat in return for greater collaboration in Parliament.
However Tsvangirai is said to be under such pressure to appoint someone from among the dozens of his loyalists who failed to get a position in the inclusive government. He is said, therefore, to be unlikely to cede the seat that Mutambara desperately needs.
The beleaguered Sibanda was Tsvangirai’s deputy president in the MDC until October 12, 2005, when he and secretary general, Welshman Ncube, information secretary, Paul Themba Nyathi and treasurer, Fletcher Dulini Ncube walked out on Tsvangirai to form a party of their own in Bulawayo. They named it the MDC and invited Mutambara who was based in South Africa to return home and lead the new party.
Mutambara was walloped in Chitungwiza in the March 29 elections; so were all his lieutenants in Bulawayo.
He is now also said to be exploring the prospect of entering negotiations with Zanu-PF which also has an extra seat in the Senate. There is only one Zanu-PF deputy minister without a seat, Aguy Georgias who will presumably take up one of the two Zanu-PF Senate seats.
Mutambara was also said to be exploring entering fresh negotiations with the other party principals to expand Parliament to 315 members. Already Parliament has been expanded by 11 more members to accommodate election losers and hangers-on, expanding its size from 303 members to 314.
There were 210 members in the House of Assembly but there are 214, now while the Senate has been increased from 93 members to 100 Senators.
Constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku said the law clearly states that Sibanda has three months to regularise his legislative issues otherwise he ceases to be a minister three months from the day he and other deputy ministers took oath of office.
“He has to have his papers and formalisation process sorted out before the end of three months or else he will lose his cabinet post,” Madhuku said.