Zimbabwe parliament to mull nationalization plans

 @ibtimes on August 20 2007 10:49 AM

Zimbabwe's parliament meets for a new session on Tuesday that will consider two major pieces of legislation, one to give the president considerable sway in appointing a successor and another to nationalize foreign firms.

Robert Mugabe, who has ruled the former British colony since independence in 1980, is seeking to consolidate power in the face of growing discontent at home and abroad over policies that critics say have plunged the economy into crisis.

Political analysts said the veteran leader, re-energized by the support from regional leaders at a summit last week, wants to quickly ram through legislation enabling parliament to pick a successor if a vacancy arose mid-term and an economic empowerment bill to nationalize foreign-owned firms.

Critics, including the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), say the plans would hurt an economy already enduring the world's highest inflation rate, above 4,500 percent, and increase political tension.

Mugabe will feel re-invigorated by events at the SADC (Southern African Development Community) meeting and I have no doubt he will move with speed to make sure that legislation is passed by parliament, Eldred Masunungure, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe said.

The cost of nationalization to the economy is great but that is not a matter that would worry the government. Its goal is to maintain power at all cost.

The Constitutional Amendment Bill seeks to merge presidential, parliamentary and council elections but analysts say a clause allowing parliament to choose a new president if a vacancy arose in between elections would give Mugabe room to maneuver a dignified exit.

Mugabe, 83, plans to stand for another five-year term next year but political analysts say he may seek to retire mid-term and would be able to anoint a successor if the legislation were passed because parliament is dominated by his ZANU-PF party.

BAD FAITH

The MDC says the Constitutional Amendment Bill is being presented in bad faith by Mugabe because it is already a sticking point at talks between the opposition and the ZANU-PF being mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki, who was appointed by SADC.

The opposition wants a new constitution.

We have said this is against the spirit of the SADC initiative and we will oppose such legislation, Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for the larger of the MDC's wings, said.

Despite criticism over his policy of seizing white-owned farms for blacks, Mugabe is pushing ahead with plans to transfer ownership of all foreign-owned businesses, including mines, into local hands.

Zimbabwe's economy has hit even more turbulent times after the government ordered a price freeze in June to stem inflation, leaving shop shelves empty of basic goods such as milk, maize-meal, flour and meat.

Analysts say Mugabe could use the economic empowerment law to reward supporters as he seeks re-election in 2008.

Mugabe portrays himself as a victim of Western sabotage and has suggested Britain failed in a bid to lure Zimbabwe's military to help topple him as punishment for the land seizures.

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