Lloyd Gumbo Mr Speaker Sir
Earlier this year, we published a story about a code of conduct for Members of Parliament that the legislature was drafting with the intention of upholding good corporate governance for our representatives.The code of conduct was among a raft of recommendations first made in 1999 by a parliamentary reform committee, some of which have been adopted and are being implemented.The preamble to the draft code of conduct and ethics says the code “establishes standards of correct behaviour, which the Members of Parliament are themselves proposing to observe as elected representatives serving their country in its highest democratic institution”.
Mr Speaker Sir, this is indeed a welcome development as long as the law is allowed to take its course.
It is, however, disheartening that there is now a worrying trend by our Members of Parliament, who seem to think that they are in Parliament to pursue their selfish interests ahead of the constituents who elected them.
What is even more disturbing is the fact that they abuse the parliamentary platform by bringing their personal issues, which is a big shame really.
For instance, about three weeks ago, we were told that MP Dexter Nduna’s estate faced sequestration as a result of his failure to settle a loan with the Standard Chartered Bank.The bank then obtained a High Court judgment for provisional sentence for a loan of about $231 000 at an interest of 23 percent ballooning to about $390 600.
This forced the bank to approach the High Court again, applying for sequestration of Nduna’s estate in a bid to recover its money.
And three weeks down the line, Nduna was in Parliament pretending to be representing his constituents by twisting a motion on the fourth report of the Public Accounts Committee on the findings by the Auditor-General on the 2014 Appropriation and Funds Accounts for the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs by smuggling in his personal interests to make them appear as if he was representing the generality of Zimbabweans.
This is what he said: “Mr. Speaker Sir, if you read the newspapers or if you go online — for argument’s sake, you will find that the people that are making money these days are the Sheriff, the Deputy Sheriff, the Messenger of Court and all those affiliates who are associated with selling property of those that would have used these finance houses so that they give back to their master, who is charging exorbitant charges for those that would have used those finance houses.
“Every day that we come to Parliament, we are accosted and greeted or hit in the face with a lot of names in the newspapers and of properties that are being sold by the Sheriff in order to compensate these finance houses.
“Mr Speaker Sir, it is time that as representatives of the electorate, that we put our foot down and make sure we become a voice of the voiceless and make sure we bring the finance houses to account together with the Sheriff and the Deputy Sheriff, who are messengers of the court based on what they would have obtained in the finance houses.
“Mr Speaker Sir, we need to bring them under check so that it does not continue to bleed the economy.”Mr Speaker Sir, in mid-August, the Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development summoned the Sheriff of the High Court to appear before it to give them information on the number of daily attachments of property and auctions by his office.
But when the Deputy Secretary of the Judicial Service Commission, Walter Chikwanha appeared before the committee and advised them that the Sheriff of the High Court was an employee of the JSC, as such, he could not give evidence before the committee but secretary for the JSC, Justice Rita Makarau, Harare East MP Terrence Mukupe objected, demanding that the Sheriff presents evidence.
It took acting committee chairperson Samson Mukanduri to bring the House to order and oblige to what Chikwanha had said.
Ironically, a month later, a Government Gazette revealed that the Deputy Sheriff of the High Court would attach Mukupe’s Glen Lorne property after he failed to settle a loan owed to a local bank.
Further inquiries revealed that several other MPs had outstanding loans with financial institutions with their cases before the Sheriff.
Mr Speaker Sir, this is where the major problem arises: instead of recusing themselves on such issues, some legislators want to abuse their positions to harass the Sheriff because of personal problems.Parliament as an institution can only be respected when MPs do not abuse it.
It is important that in line with the draft code of ethics and conduct, MPs take decisions solely in terms of public interest.
As is provided for in the draft code of ethics and conduct, Section (1) states that: “It is the personal responsibility of every Member of Parliament to maintain those standards of conduct which the House and the electorate are entitled to expect, to protect the good name of Parliament and to advance the public interest.
“Members should observe those general principles which apply to all people in public life. In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, Members of Parliament should make choices on merit.
“Be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take and accordingly give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wide public interest clearly demands;
“Have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest;
“And promote and support these principles by leadership and example, bearing in mind that their primary duty as members is to their country and their constituents.”
Mr Speaker Sir, this is where the issue is.
Parliament must endeavour to ensure that MPs do not abuse their positions by using it to pursue selfish interests given the fact that human beings by nature are selfish.
And for that reason, they can commit any crime in search of that selfish satisfaction if no mechanisms are put in place to protect those who are not in Parliament.
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