Bell tolls for ‘deaf and dumb’ legislators Adv Mudenda

JACOB MUDENDAFarirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
Two weeks ago, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda (pictured here), issued a strongly-worded statement warning legislators against absconding parliamentary business and a general disregard of their responsibilities to the electorate, adding Parliament could soon

put appropriate measures to deal with errant MPs.

In his statement, Adv Mudenda reminded the MPs of the responsibilities they have both to the people that elected them and also the oaths they took when they assumed office.

“Honourable Members have responsibilities to fulfil in terms of their representative, oversight and legislative roles. I also draw the attention of the House to Section 117 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which provides for the nature and extent of the legislative authority, specifically that the legislative authority of Zimbabwe is derived from the people of Zimbabwe and is vested and exercised in accordance with the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” reads part of the statement by Adv Mudenda.

“I implore Honourable Members to recognise and respect the source of their authority, namely, the people of Zimbabwe,” he said.

He added: “In taking oath of a Member of Parliament, you solemnly swear that you will bear true allegiance to Zimbabwe, observe all other laws and perform your duties to the best of your ability, but your continued absence from the Chamber constitutes dereliction of duty. In this respect, you are short-changing the very people that you purport to be representing.”

The warning, once again, brings to the fore the calibre of the parliamentarians we have and whether they really understand the reason they are in the august House and what needs to be done to ensure that we elect the right kind of people that bring value to the legislative process.

In my view, the problem is that in seeking to be too democratic, our system has failed to provide the necessary checks and balances that ensure we have dedicated people who have the interests of the people at heart.

It is because of that situation that we have MPs who have not uttered a single word since being elected in 2013, be it asking questions or moving a motion or contributing to a debate.

The onus therefore is on political parties to vet their candidates especially their competences to ensure that we elect people that bring vibrancy to the House.

The tragedy we have is that we have people who take Parliament as a form of employment and are forever moaning about allowances.

While they deserve to get allowances for their time, legislators must not lose sight of the fact that their primary role is to legislate, hold the executive to account and represent the interests of people that elected them.

Thus it was unfortunate that on two occasions the National Assembly cut short its sittings last month for lack of a quorum.

We have a Legislative Assembly that comprises 270 members in the National Assembly and 80 senators, bringing the total to 350 legislators and these gobble a significant amount in taxpayers’ money in allowances, fuel and other perks.

For ordinary Zimbabweans, it becomes unacceptable when they fail to carry out the duties that they were elected to perform.

In 2013 President Mugabe said his choice of people to appoint to Cabinet was guided by the standing of the individual and their educational qualifications, among other attributes.

Even Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko early this year urged the electorate to be careful when choosing their leaders to avoid electing every Tom, Dick and Harry that are mainly driven by personal interests and would not represent them in any way.

While some may say this is discriminatory, I believe with the level of education that we have and pride ourselves in, we should start setting minimum benchmarks for anyone that wants to serve in a public office.

The failure by most legislators to speak in the Parliament raises questions of whether the constituencies they represent do not have concerns or issues that they want addressed.

In Kenya, parliamentarians there last month agreed to allow the Powers and Privileges Committee to come up with a code of conduct and propose punitive measures against errant MPs while South Africa has also adopted interim rules that will guide how to deal with MPs that refuse to leave the House when ordered to do so by the Speaker.

While some may view introduction of stiffer penalties on parliamentarians as a way of limiting their freedom, one also has to take account of the interests of the public that elect them.

In our case, we have so many issues that need thorough debate that are affecting the country yet it is disappointing that many legislators become dumb once they are in the House.

The Auditor-General, Mrs Mildred Chiri, has released a number of reports exposing graft and mismanagement in many parastatals and State enterprises but we have not seen any tangible evidence that the responsible ministers are being asked to explain the goings-on in institutions under their ambit.

We also have the Zim-Asset economic blueprint and we still haven’t seen ministers being taken to task on what they are doing to achieve the targets set under the policy.

President Mugabe also presented his State of the Nation Address in August in which he outlined a 10-point plan for economic growth. We expect legislators to comprehend and check whether the executive is doing anything towards its implementation.

Given the challenges we face as a nation, there is need for high calibre legislators that know their purpose in the legislative assembly instead of taking the electorate for granted.

You Might Also Like