Zimbabwe: Speaker Bemoans Composition of Standing Rules Committee

SPEAKER of parliament Lovemore Moyo has bemoaned the composition of the legislature's Standing Rules and Orders Committee (SROC) which is dominated by members of the executive, saying this stifles the independence of the House.

The SROC is the supreme committee that runs parliament and currently comprises 12 members of cabinet out of its composition of 25.

Among cabinet members who sit in the SROC are the two vice-presidents Joice Mujuru and John Nkomo, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and deputy prime ministers Arthur Mutambara and Thokozani Khupe.

Other cabinet members in the SROC include Defence minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, Finance minister Tendai Biti, Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, Transport minister Nicholas Goche and Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister Eric Matinenga.

Moyo told the Zimbabwe Independent in an interview this week that in other legislatures such as in Uganda and South Africa, the SROC is dominated by backbenchers thereby guaranteeing parliament's independence.

"We have to change if we are to adhere to the separation of powers as it is difficult for backbenchers to stand up to their political leaders at meetings," said Moyo.

He said the executive's dominance was untenable and undemocratic for the smooth operation and independence of the House.

"It's a misnomer to have the SROC dominated by executive members. That is not a normal situation in parliamentary democracies the world over."

Moyo said he hoped the proposed new constitution would address this anomaly by allowing only two members of the executive to sit on the SROC. He suggested the two be the Finance and the Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs ministers.

Zimbabwe's legislature, usually a rubberstamp, has largely been emasculated by the executive since the formation of the coalition government in February 2009. It has sat mostly on an ad hoc basis and generally has had superficial debates as the executive routinely whips it into line on critical issues.

Moyo said parliament sits on an ad hoc basis because it is poorly resourced to carry out its constitutional mandate. He said the legislature needs a ring-fenced budget to protect its independence and allow it to fulfill its mandate without having to queue with other departments at Treasury for resources.

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