VICE-President Emmerson Mnangagwa has refuted claims that President Robert Mugabe has been avoiding Parliament. The President must address a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament on the State of the Nation but since Mugabe was elected he has not done so.

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\nMDC-T MP Jessie Fungai Majome questioned the leader of the House, Mnangagwa, about when President Mugabe will address a joint sitting of the Houses as per the constitution of Zimbabwe requirement.

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“I will now proceed to ask my question which is directed to the Leader of the House who is our esteemed Vice President and Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. When will His Excellency, the President deliver a State of the Nation Address to the august House? I ask because as the Vice President will remember, Section 140 of the Constitution requires that every year, His Excellency must address a joint sitting of the Houses. I am concerned that we have not had such address since His Excellency was elected as he is responsible for upholding the Constitution,” asked Majome.

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Speaker of the House, Jacob Mudenda was of the assumption that the Constitution does not say “must”, it says “may”.

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Mudenda said, “May I correct the Hon. member who asked the question that the Constitution does not say “must”, it says “may” that is the correction. I therefore request the Vice President to respond accordingly.”

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The Vice President thanked the Speaker for clarifying the provision chiding Majome.

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“I am very grateful to the guidance the Chair has given me as well as my learned sister who is also a lawyer. She knows the distinction between “may” and “must””

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Mnangagwa indicated that he is in discussion with Mugabe to find an opportunity when he can come and address members of parliament.

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“Let me assure the House that in actual fact, as Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Minister responsible for Parliament, I am in discussion with His Excellency to find an opportunity when he can come and address the house.

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Section 140 – Presidential Addresses and Messages to Parliament: Section 140 (1) reads, “The President may at any time address either House of Parliament or a joint sitting of both Houses. Subsection (4), At least once a year, the President must address a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament on the State of the Nation, and the Speaker and the President of the Senate must make the necessary arrangements for Parliament to receive such an Address.”

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Mnangagwa said he has taken measures to advise his Principal to look for a suitable date to come address the house.

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“As I have said, as Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs who is fully conversant with the Constitution as well as the laws of this nation and being Minister for Parliament for both the opposition and the ruling party, I have already informed this august House that in that capacity, I have taken measures to advise my Principal to look for a suitable date which both the Speaker and the President of the Senate will concur,” said Mnangagwa.