9th ParliamentArticlesCorona VirusOpinion

Thanks for the sideshow, now reconvene

OPINION

By Joel Mandaza

Before last week`s Parliamentary gathering we were told that it was meant to further adjourn to a later date.

At least according to what was communicated by Parliament itself.

The requirement for presence was limited to those who live in Harare and areas fairly close, this thinking was influenced by the prevailing COVID-19 reasoning.

Hotels are closed and legislators from areas far from the capital would have been stuck if they had made the journey.

By then calls were being made for Parliament to reconvene (digitally) and all sorts of excuses were being given over why this was an impossible ask.

READ: COVID-19 EVENTS AS THEY HAPPEN

Parliament eventually met, and before they spoke on meaningful pressing needs of the people, they had a pit stop to make.

The centre of the conversation was not COVID-19 or modalities around how they can continue to be useful on behalf of the people that voted for them.

Instead of doing that, they took their time to eject each other.

Speaker Advocate Jacob Mudenda read a letter from Douglas Mwonzora recalling four MDC Alliance Parliamentarians in Prosper Mutseyami (Dangamvura-Chikanga), Charlton Hwende (Kuwadzana East), Thabitha Khumalo (proportional representative Bulawayo Province) and Senator Lillian Timveous (Midlands).

When Parliament met, before anything else could happen Advocate Jacob Mudenda, who is the speaker of the National Assembly read a letter from Douglas Mwonzora recalling the legislators.

The letter and its contents took over the week`s discourse contaminating discourse.

While power struggles are entertaining, they offer very little material benefit in the pandemic that Zimbabwe is facing.

A quick perusal of the Hansard on the day showed that there was nothing meaningful mentioned on COVID-19, this is despite the fact that the country is in a spot of bother.

READ: NATIONAL ASSEMBLY HANSARD

Maybe the people should take a cue from Mwonzora and recall everyone from Parliament, they do not appear serious.

At a time when our government is relentlessly receiving donations, where is our Public Accounts Committee with the checks and balances?

There is need to keep track with the funds and material handouts that the country has been receiving, this is exactly what the Public Accounts Committee exists for; to ensure accountability.

But no, without fuel allowances and hotels, it appears there is not enough agency to make things happen.

READ: MPS DEMAND $3000 ACCOMMODATION ALLOWANCE

Right now Zimbabwe is not testing as much as it should.

The government is twisting and turning in its usual policy inconsistency.

A few days after ordering that businesses test people before opening, they reneged on the idea.

This is besides the fact that the lockdown remains a concept on paper as people are now gallivanting freely and recklessly.

Where is the Dr Ruth Labode and the Health and Child Care Committee?

This is the time we should be hearing concerns from her and her colleagues.

Mobile network operators are going against the grain raising tariffs for data in the middle of an information sensitive pandemic.

READ: ECONET NEW DATA TARIFFS FROM 5TH OF MAY

Where is the Parliamentary Committee on ICT?

Shouldn`t they be putting Potraz to task over such ill-timed decisions by mobile network operators?

This is the time where Parliament as a non-partisan arm of governance should be using moral suasion to appeal to Econet and NetOne on behalf of their constituents whose children have to do online lessons in this lockdown.

But no, our Parliament prefers divisive politics to carry the light of the day.

The tobacco marketing season is here the country has gone ahead with opening the auction floors despite COVID-19.

There have been promises that there will be social distancing and restrained activity but there has been very little transparency over goings on at the floors.

Over the years, Parliamentary committees would have gone on a fact finding mission to understand how things are going but at the moment it appears farmers are at the mercy of government as well as sales floor owners.

The same applies to the winter wheat project which is being headed by government.

Can they be trusted with funds after they did with Command Agriculture?

Even their grain projections need to be tested against the measures of logic, this is where the Committee on Lands, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation should come in and ask tough questions to the implementers.

Perhaps the agency of the need for Parliament is lost on those people voted into office.

The truth is, a government that has a penchant of mischief even under the watchful eye of Parliament should not be allowed to make too many uncontested decisions.

History has shown us that it is not in government`s nature to act in the best interests of its people.

By so doing, in times of COVID-19 induced turmoil, we need Parliament more than ever with each day they delay to convene, the people are prejudiced.

If not by their own motivation, then they should be inspired by the plight of 16 million-plus Zimbabweans whose futures are presently precarious. Get all COVID-19 statistics for Zimbabwe from COVID-TRACKER

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Daniel Chigundu

Daniel Chigundu is the news editor for OpenParlyZW an online platform that covers Parliament of Zimbabwe activities using social media (Twitter and Facebook). He is currently the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Journalists Forum and a board member of Digital Communication Network.

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