Mr Speaker Sir Zvamaida Murwira
The forthcoming Ninth Parliament ought to be revolutionised in order to fulfil President Mnangagwa’s vision and thrust to have Zimbabwe open for business and unlock investment by constituting a Cabinet that does not, without reasonable cause, fail to attend Parliament’s question and answer session to articulate Government policies.
Mr Speaker Sir, it has become a trend in both the National Assembly and Senate that question time is shelved on Wednesdays and Thursdays, respectively owing to non-attendance by Cabinet ministers.
Despite protests and complaints from backbenchers to presiding officers, it appears, Mr Speaker Sir, such concerns have been falling on deaf ears.
Only dedicated members of the Executive would be able to ensure the realisation of President Mnangagwa’s vision and to respect Parliament is the cornerstone for such objectives to be achieved.
The new administration led by President Mnangagwa has embarked on a whirlwind tour to invite investors as the country seeks to achieve middle-income status for its citizens by 2030 as espoused by the Head of State and Government.
It goes without saying, Mr Speaker Sir, that attainment of such a mammoth objective requires a team that is dedicated to duty and confers due weight to the other arm of the State — the Legislature.
Indeed Mr Speaker Sir, as the life of the Eighth Parliament comes to an end owing to elections set for July 30, 2018, there is need to look into the Ninth Parliament which might need to invoke its powers to ensure members of the Executive attend parliamentary sessions not only for question time but to respond to issues raised during Motions.
President Mnangagwa has registered a milestone by inviting several international organisations and countries like the European Union, the United Nations, Comesa among other entities, to observe this year’s harmonised elections.
That in itself shows his determination to open Zimbabwe for business.
It is therefore clear that if members of the Executive fail to avail themselves to Parliament, which is an organ that stands for the people by virtue of the fact that it is constituted by elected representatives, they would be short-changing the electorate.
Not only are Zimbabweans short-changed, the public broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and its viewers, are prejudiced in a bigger way, Mr Speaker Sir, by failing to conduct the question-and-answer session.
It should be recalled, Mr Speaker Sir, that Parliament and ZBC signed a Memorandum of Understanding where the public broadcaster would provide live coverage for the question-and-answer sessions.
What has been happening for the past three successive weeks, is that there had been no live coverage of these sessions mainly due to the absence of members of the Executive.
Mr Speaker Sir, to start with, there are elementary costs that ZBC incurs like bringing the outside broadcasting van to Parliament Building, the need for overnight security and the cost of paying staff allowances, among other incidental costs.
What happens Mr Speaker Sir is that ZBC mobilises a staff complement of more than 30 who include camera persons, producers, script writers, editors and security personnel for a live transmission which never materialises.
Most of the staff must endure the vagaries of the cold weather overnight in anticipation of the live coverage, only to be frustrated by failure by members of the Executive to attend.
It is therefore painful Mr Speaker Sir from that perspective that nothing materialised for three successive weeks and in some cases in respect of both Houses.
Last week, Senate failed to conduct question time while the same situation obtained in the National Assembly in past weeks.
Of course, the National Assembly shelved questions last week because they wanted to allow portfolio committee reports to be tabled, but there were not many ministers even if the Houses decided to do question time.
In some cases question time is deferred and by the time they conduct it, the ZBC would have disassembled its equipment and left.
This obviously leaves millions of the viewing public keen to see their questions given their MPs responded to unhappy.
Mr Speaker Sir, it is pertinent that members of the Executive comply with Standing Orders with regards to question time as rightfully noted by Mutare Central MP Mr Innocent Gonese a fortnight ago.
“My point of order, Mr Speaker, is that in terms of the Standing Orders, it is necessary for the Chair to advise honourable members of the names of the ministers who have given apologies. I know there are ministers who would have sought leave of absence and I think it is important for your office to inform the august House of which ministers have sought the leave of the Chair as required by the Standing Orders.
“I think it is also important, Mr. Speaker, for the nation to know which of our honourable ministers have followed the provision of the Standing Orders by informing the Chair that they are not available and they have sought the leave of the Chair to be given leave of absence,” said Mr Gonese.
Mr Marumahoko, who was the presiding officer, responded as follows: “I hear your concern Hon. Gonese. At the moment, I have not received any notification of absence from any Minister. I am sure in due course, we will have the notice of absenteeism from them, but for now, the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development is here . . . For now, we may proceed with the Notices of Motions until such a time we have ministers in the chamber and then we can revert to question time.”
Perhaps, Mr Speaker Sir, it is one of the reasons why President Mnangagwa indicated recently while in Qatar, in the Middle East, that he would overhaul his Cabinet after elections as part of efforts to turnaround the economy.