21 September 2018

Zimbabwe: Deal Decisively With Parly Delinquents

It is high time that Parliament's Committee on Rules and Standing Orders asserts its authority in ensuring that legislators respect State institutions and the Constitution, which they swore to uphold on the first day they walked into the august House.

Mr Speaker Sir, the decision by MDC Alliance MPs to walk out of Parliament when President Mnangagwa was delivering the State of the Nation Address and setting out the legislative agenda of the First Session of the Ninth Parliament on Tuesday is a case in point.

There is need to review Standing Orders and provide for punitive measures pursuant to the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act so that MPs respect constitutional institutions.

It ought to be realised, Mr Speaker Sir, that President Mnangagwa is not only Head of Government, but is also the Head of State under which Parliament falls and any conduct that has the effect of undermining that office ought to be frowned upon by any progressive person.

While the three pillars of State - the Judiciary, Executive and Legislature - have their own heads, the President is head of both the State and Government and the need to respect that office cannot be overemphasised.

After all, the President is part of the legislative arm given that he completes the legislative process by appending his signature if he assents to any Bill passed by Parliament.

Parliament should have punitive measures aimed at sanctioning those elements that abuse their parliamentary privileges in a manner that fails to give due regard to the office of the Presidency.

A statement must be made, Mr Speaker Sir, that while legislators have privileges that they enjoy in the Chamber that would not ordinarily cover them outside the august House, such rights must be exercised responsibly.

Mr Speaker Sir, instances of legislators from the opposition party failing to respect State institutions have been rampant and time has now come for decisive action to be taken.

Of course, there are other moral issues outside the legal obligations that legislators should uphold.

One of the moral issues that can objectively be asked, Mr Speaker Sir, is it prudent for MDC Alliance legislators to walk out when the President is delivering a speech that sets out the legislative agenda which forms part of their core business?

It goes without saying that Members of Parliament are legislators, meaning their core business is to make laws before one thinks of their other roles of representative and oversight.

Here was an opportunity for them to listen to the legislative agenda which they would be seized with not only during the life of the First Session but of the whole Ninth Parliament.

President Mnangagwa, Mr Speaker Sir, was laying out the agenda of the very business that they would be carrying out, and instead of obliging by listening, they chose to play political games by walking out.

That conduct begs the question, what legislative agenda do they intend to push when they failed or refused to listen to it being delivered?

In any case by accepting to be sworn-in, Mr Speaker Sir, such oath was an affirmation of loyalty.

Another pertinent issue was raised by National Chiefs Council president Chief Fortune Charumbira that there is need for people to abide by the rules of the game that they ae part and parvel of.

The Constitution, which was crafted by Zanu-PF and MDC MPs and subsequently adopted by Zimbabweans in a referendum, provides for mechanisms through which election disputes should be resolved.

The legal framework provides that a Presidential election dispute is resolved by the Constitutional Court and such decision would be final.

Zanu-PF demonstrated its willingness to abide by that constitutional provision when it agreed to defer the inauguration of its Presidential candidate after MDC Alliance president Mr Nelson Chamisa approached the Concourt as provided for by the Constitution.

It must have been somehow a bitter pill to swallow for Zanu-PF given that it had started making preparations for the inauguration but the revolutionary party reckoned that the law had to be complied with despite the inconveniences that one might be subjected to.

The wait, albeit temporary, saw some MDC Alliance supporters going into some exuberant excitement that they had scored a "small" victory over their rivals.

The bigger picture here, Mr Speaker Sir, is that Zanu-PF waited for the 14-day period within which the Concourt should conclude the petition.

After the 14 days lapsed, there was the judgment, which for all intents and purposes, the MDC Alliance failed to summon adequate courage to accept.

It is shameful, Mr Speaker Sir, that the MDC Alliance MPs were prepared to be accommodated in expensive hotels, partake in lavish meals, get fuel coupons to and from Harare and fail to attend Tuesday's official opening when most of them had travelled to Harare for the same event that they were now snubbing.

The same legislators would be claiming sitting allowances for the day that they failed to conduct their core business.

Mr Speaker Sir, legislators from the MDC Alliance will soon be taking delivery of the all-terrain vehicles for use despite them unwilling to do the work for which they are getting the cars.

The effect of the childish attitude of legislators from the opposition is their rejection by the people.

That explains, Mr Speaker Sir, why the MDC Alliance, which during the Seventh Parliament commanded a majority in Parliament, continues to be marginalised.

In the 2013 harmonised elections, MDC suffered a heavy defeat and the just ended harmonised elections saw Zanu-PF regaining its two-thirds majority.

The opposition will continue to suffer the same fate should they continue to play such childish games at the expense of their supporters.

They will continue to score own goals if they take their supporters for granted.

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