The Herald (Harare)

27 November 2012

Zimbabwe: We Need Serious Orientation - MPs

Legislators have admitted they are ignorant of governmental processes with majority of them needing serious orientation for them to have an in-depth understanding of various issues. They said their ignorance has resulted in them failing to carry out checks and balances on the executive.

Speaking at a media workshop in Banket last week, chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology Mr Settlement Chikwinya (MDC-T), said Members of Parliament needed orientation.

The workshop that was organised by Misa-Zimbabwe was attended by members of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology.

"MPs should be taken through an in-depth understanding of what happens for them to perform their duties well," he said.

Mr Chikwinya said some parliamentary portfolio committees failed to deliver because they did not have an appreciation of the subject.

He said there was a need for legislators to research before inviting officials to appear before their committees.

Lack of research, he said, resulted in portfolio committees failing to ask pertinent questions and letting the officials to "get away with murder."

MDC-T legislator for Zaka Central Mr Harison Mudzuri said MPs were sometimes mesmerised by ministers or permanent secretaries who appeared before their committees.

He acknowledged that the officials would have researched on the particular subject compared to legislators.

Some of the MPs do not contribute anything during committee meetings yet they are paid allowances for attending. Investigations by The Herald have revealed that some legislators do not even have Ordinary Level qualifications.

Uzumba MP Cde Simbaneuta Mudarikwa said there was a need for ministers to consult parliamentary committees when drafting statutory instruments.

He said the Parliamentary Legal Committee that ministers consulted did not reflect the views of parliamentary committees.

"The whole process of our role as Parliament needs to be re-visited. For instance, ministers come to Parliament for our input when they have already signed deals. We are now having problems with the Essar deal because the minister rushed to sign a deal without Parliament interrogating it," said Cde Mudarikwa.

Mr Chikwinya hailed media reforms that saw the Zimbabwe Media Commission licensing 28 new media houses and Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe giving broadcasting licences to two commercial radio stations.

He said this was a major step towards freedom of expression.

Media activist Mr Rashweat Mukundu said access to information was not a preserve for the media.

He said it had more to do with the public who needed to be informed.

Misa board member Mr Kelvin Jakachira said the media fraternity welcomed media provisions in the draft constitution.

The draft, he said, guaranteed press freedom, access to information and protected journalists and their sources.

Zimbabwe Media Commission representative Mr Chris Mhike said there was a need for the amalgamation of media laws.

He said the provision in the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act that charged journalists who wrote falsehoods was justified.

"We would be happy as a commission if media organisations have internal systems that make sure there is little or non falsehoods at all in their publications.

"I would want to assure stakeholders that we want to continue to operate as an independent commission," he said.

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