Zimbabwe: Parly Walkouts - MPs Must Serve the National Interest

Zanu-PF legislators' decision to boycott the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Accounts (PAC) sitting where Sakunda Holdings was expected to give oral evidence regarding how the US$3 billion Command Agriculture programme was utilised, has exposed an unholy collusion between the party and state in a bid to conceal corruption.

This comes at a time it has emerged that part of the funds cannot be accounted for amid fears they were looted.PAC's hearing into Command Agriculture and Sakunda was aborted last Friday after Zanu PF legislators demanded committee chairperson Tendai Biti to recuse himself from chairing the committee.

Their actions were in retaliation to the MDC's refusal to recognise Emmerson Mnangagwa as President. The move was, however, widely interpreted as a deliberate ploy to conceal the abuse of funds, with some members of the public insinuating that the legislators were paid to sweep the matter under the carpet.

The circus at the PAC meeting is proof that achieving zero tolerance to corruption and ending the abuse of public funds remains a pipe dream.The meeting was called off despite the presence of Sakunda chief executive Chitambo Mberikwazvo who was ready to give oral evidence. This was the second attempt by the committee to give audience to Sakunda after the company boss and Zanu PF benefactor, Kuda Tagwirei, snubbed a hearing early this month.

The unbecoming behaviour of legislators, who prioritise party politics at the expense of the national agenda that includes dealing with corruption, proves how the legislature has been captured by powerful characters. It is even more disturbing because in the court of public opinion, it is believed that Zanu PF MPs were paid to frustrate Biti's investigations into Sakunda.

While the public still demands answers on how the funds disappeared from the country's coffers, legislators continue to use parliament to fight political wars.

It is apparent that the country's legislature is willing to sacrifice national interests on the altar of political expediency, a sad reality that will haunt Zimbabwe for the foreseeable future.

Zanu PF MPs not only has a responsibility to interrogate the failed Command Agriculture programme that cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of dollars, but the party must also respect the parliamentary process.

Gone are the days of the late former Minister of Mines, Edward Chindori-Chininga and Sydney Malunga who, despite their affiliation to Zanu PF, were morally upright and called a spade a spade during debate.

Chindori-Chininga exposed corruption by Zanu PF bigwigs during the diamond rush in Marange while Malunga, a Zanu-PF MP renowned for his brash criticism of government, was a torchbearer in the fight against corruption in the 1990s.

The vocal duo should be turning in their graves as the current lot of legislators has been reduced to hero-worshiping and rubber-stamping as corruption continues blighting Zimbabwe.

Biti has been one of the few voices in the fight on corruption alongside independent Norton legislator Temba Mliswa.

Political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said the move by Zanu PF legislators last week was bent on protecting Sakunda whose operations involve the top oligarchies in the country.

"It is disgraceful and it is proof that there is something to hide. This also suggests collusion between party and the state in an attempt to conceal corruption. It is because Sakunda is a cartel in which the politically powerful are involved," Mandaza said.

Mnangagwa, then vice-president, was tasked with implementing the controversial programme and his close allies including Sakunda's Kuda Tagwirei were the main beneficiaries.

Government initially said Sakunda was financing the scheme, but it later turned out it was largely taxpayer-funded.Economist John Robertson said the culture of impunity undermines trust in the systems of governance in the country.

"It seems like some people are allowed to get away with anything by the government. This undermines the trust that is essential for there to be democracy in the country. This extends to government and it is very dangerous and it is also very disrespectful to the people of Zimbabwe," Robertson said.

Political analyst Alexander Rusero said Zanu PF will continue with the retaliation game to spite the MDC."You have to call a spade a spade; MDC started this when they walked out on Mnangagwa. So what you have is a paradoxical situation with Zanu PF just reacting to what MDC did because the MDC is now playing Zanu PF's game, a game which Zanu PF is very good at," Rusero said.

However, whether it is right or wrong for MDC to continue to play the legitimacy card on Mnangagwa, it does not serve the country well for legislators to hide corruption.

The MDC has refused to recognise Mnangagwa as a legitimate leader, accusing the Zanu PF leader of stealing last year's elections.In similar fashion, MDC MPs walked out on Mnangagwa's State of the Nation Address (Sona) last month, following another such incident in September last year.MDC legislators did not attend the budget presentation by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube last Thursday.

Earlier this year, they snubbed Mnangagwa when he graced Ncube's presentation to parliament of the mid-term budget.

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