MPs must rise above partisan politics

MPs must be accountable to the electorate regardless of their personal differences or party affiliation

MPs must be accountable to the electorate regardless of their personal differences or party affiliation

Lloyd Gumbo Mr Speaker Sir

It is expected that MPs are rational human beings when they carry out their parliamentary duties, as such they should instead use public hearings to unite people and focus on developmental issues.

So Parliament has gobbled at least $420 000 this week alone if pronouncements by Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda are anything to go by?

Chokuda told legislators who attended the 2016 pre-Budget seminar in Victoria Falls last year that Parliament with more than 300 backbenchers spent around the above-mentioned figure whenever the Senate and the National Assembly sat.

Given the economic challenges currently facing the country, Treasury has not been able to sponsor or at least pay for MPs’ accommodation which resulted in some of them being evicted from their hotel rooms while constitutional requirements were breached as some Bills sailed through Parliament without being subjected to public hearing as provided by Section 141 (a) of the Constitution that states that: “Parliament must facilitate public involvement in its legislative and other processes and in the process of its committees.”

However, authorities have been quick to invoke Section 141 (b) which says: “Parliament must ensure that interested parties are consulted about Bills being considered by Parliament, unless such consultation is inappropriate and impracticable.”

Mr Speaker Sir, it is for that reason that the people’s representatives have gotten away with murder as they have managed to pass Bills without input from the people in the process defeating the letter and spirit of the provision of the Constitution.

However, the enterprise by Parliament’s administration under the leadership of National Assembly Speaker Advocate Mudenda has managed to bring development partners on board to enable the legislature to perform its mandate without constraints.

The United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank and the African Development Bank are some of the institutions that have come to the aid of Parliament.

The three institutions have chipped in with more than $10 million grants for the period spanning five years from 2015 to 2019.

Their donations mainly target facilitation of the people’s involvement in governance particularly through public hearings where the majority of citizens are given an opportunity to express their wishes in governance of the country.

Development partners have mobilised resources for Parliament to carry out this mandate, as such the legislature should not disappoint.

It is only a few moons back when some MPs of a parliamentary portfolio committee drew the ire of citizens when they walked out of a public hearing meeting in Harare resulting in lack of a quorum that saw the meeting aborted.

Those who had made effort to attend the meeting were left fuming accusing MPs of neglecting their duties.

It also goes without saying that MPs enjoy travelling outside Harare on parliamentary business instead of performing their duties in the capital mainly because of the incentives that come with being outside town.

Mr Speaker Sir, it is important that MPs do not put to waste the resources that have been availed by development partners but must put them to good use by carrying out their duties without fear or favour.

What MPs must understand is that when they are elected into Parliament, the electorate expects them to represent their interests and nothing less.

MPs must know as a cardinal rule that they are accountable to the electorate, as such it is their interests that legislators must hold in high regard.

One of the major challenges that stand in the way of MPs exercising their mandate is employing partisan positions that may not be informed by their respective parties’ ideology.

Some MPs are easily excitable to the extent that they may try to outdo each other in portraying themselves as fervent defenders of their parties when in actual fact they are misrepresenting their party in general and their constituents in particular.

For instance, there are issues that affect all Zimbabweans regardless of their political affiliation, to the extent that one would expect a common position from MPs regardless of their political jacket.

Mr Speaker Sir, when an MDC-T MP raises an issue about poverty bedevi;ling the country particularly in rural areas as a result of poor harvest caused by drought or the corruption common in Government ministries and parastatals or the sorry living conditions of the country’s war veterans, it defies logic to find a Zanu-PF legislator booing him or raising a point of order against the submission when deep down their hearts they share the same view.

There are so many times when Zanu-PF and MDC-T MPs have exposed themselves in trying to portray themselves as defenders of their parties by shooting down motions with far-reaching benefits just because they have originated from an opposing political party.

The major problem that Zimbabwe is suffering from at the moment is polarisation where everything that is said or done is seen with political eyes.

Given that Parliament is going to be occupied with aligning of existing laws to the Constitution the challenge that confront MPs is they are likely to take partisan positions on issues that are going to be raised during public hearings in the process further stoking already poisoned relations in the constituen- cies.

The reason portfolio committees are composed of MPs from across the political divide is to avoid a situation where implied party positions carry the day.

It is expected that MPs are rational human beings when they carry out their parliamentary duties, as such they should instead use public hearings to unite people and focus on developmental issues.

Instead, MPs should use the opportunity Parliament avails to them to build bridges across the country instead of stoking divisions by taking partisan positions during public hear- ings.

Let public hearings bring harmony among Zimbabweans.

Legislators must not waste all the thousands of dollars that are availed for them to go out to public hearings.

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