Zimbabwe's national government has fired 13 city council members in the capital, Harare, for allegedly wasting time on political matters instead of running the city's affairs. All of the fired council members are from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

Zimbabwe's local government minister, Ignatius Chombo, says he fired the city councilors because they took time to elect a deputy mayor for the city. The law requires that city councilors regularly elect senior officials, such as a deputy mayor, and the poll for a deputy mayor was already overdue.

The new deputy mayor was among those fired this week.

The post was particularly important because Minister Chombo fired Harare's mayor, Elias Mudzuri, last year. The mayor had been beaten up twice by suspected ruling party supporters, and also arrested twice by the police.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change won all but one of the 45 seats on the Harare city council in the election in 2002. In the last two years, nearly half of them have been fired by the national government, controlled by the Zanu-PF party.

A political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe, John Makumbe, said Thursday more firings can be expected. He said the ruling party is trying to remove the opposition's control over local governments around the country in advance of the next parliamentary election in nine months.