Cash-strapped Zim parliament suspends sitting

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HARARE - An acute shortage of funds and water have forced Zimbabwe's Parliament to suspended sitting in the most vivid illustration yet of deepening paralysis in the southern African country.

The country's High Court was forced to closed down on Tuesday after it ran out of water while several public schools and hospitals are barely functioning owing to a severe shortage of teachers, nurses, doctors, books, drugs, equipment and whatever else is necessary for them to provide a service.

Adjourning Parliament this week, Speaker of the House Lovemore Moyo simply told members: "The House is adjourned to 16 December."

He did not state the reasons for adjourning the House that has actually sat for eight days only since being elected about nine months ago.

Both Moyo and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa were not immediately available to clarify the reasons why the House had adjourned or what measures they were taking to ensure enough funds and water for Parliament.

But MPs who spoke to ZimOnline said the House had to stop sitting because the Parliament building had gone for days without water while hotels were increasingly reluctant to take in legislators who live outside Harare because Parliament was struggling to settle bills.

"It is now very embarrassing to get to hotels here and claim to be a Member of Parliament. They have not settled our bills from last month and it's very embarrassing," said one MP from President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party.

The MP, who did not want to be named because he did not have permission from his party to discuss the matter with the Press, said legislators had also been told that there was no cash to pay them their usual allowances.

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party chief whip Innocent Gonese said: "Parliament has no money to pay for the MPs' allowances and accommodation that is why Parliament had to adjourn to December 16. There was also no water at the Parliament building."

A crippling shortage of foreign currency - only one on an ever-growing list of shortages gripping the country - has resulted in the state water utility, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA), failing to import chemicals to treat water.

Residents in Harare and other cities have had to go for weeks without water, forcing others to source for drinking water from unprotected water sources which has led to an outbreak of cholera that has claimed more than 120 deaths over the last few months.

Initially Parliament, which was elected on March 29, had failed to sit until August as the country had to hold a presidential run-off election on June 27 and also because of the need to give chance to power-sharing talks that were only concluded in September.

Zimbabweans had hoped that a power-sharing government would help ease the political situation and allow the country to focus on tackling an economic crisis marked by the world's highest inflation rate of 231 million percent, severe shortages of food and basic commodities.

But hopes for a power-sharing government look dim after MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai accused Mugabe of allocating all the key ministries to his ZANU PF party and the opposition leader says his party will not participate in an inclusive government that Mugabe is expected to appoint anytime soon.