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When trifle, allowances and dessert are more important than Bills

By Anonymous

It was recently revealed that the Zimbabwean Parliament let the First Session of the 9th Parliament run out with six Bills still hanging.

There was a bit of noise (on Twitter obviously, where else?) which fizzled out after a few hours, as has become the norm in Zimbabwe.

Maybe people are tired or do not understand the full scale of the inconvenience.

The lack of urgency among Zimbabweans is a whole topic begging for a detailed article which we will deliver, my failure to say, pane ma articles “atichakupai, pane articles atichakupai”, should be a testament of restraint.

But, back to the stalled Bills.

What it means to the ordinary Zimbabwean is the arm of Government mandated with making laws has failed to perform urgent duties informed by their primary function.

For those who have been following Parliamentary proceedings or read the Hansard, this should not come as a surprise.

The crop sworn into the August House last September can easily be the most lethargic.

A kakistocracy in full motion.

Our Parliament has lost sight of what is important.

Across the divide, we had a voice singing in unison asking for perks, vehicles, gym and other niceties. They felt this was a matter of urgency that needed redress and even got to the extent of being seen to be holding proceedings to ransom.

Now that treasury acceded to their requests, they have gone back to default settings. There could be a few countable times if any, where a Parliamentarian has been irate that a Bill is delaying.

Imagine if a character like Temba Mliswa could speak with the same vigour about the Freedom of Information Bill as he did defend the fight for benefits.

When lawmakers close a session with six outstanding Bills and they continue with their lives as if it is business as usual, the electorate should be concerned.

 

The weaponisation of Parliament

There has not been any harmonious engagement between the two main parties that dominantly occupy our Parliament. On numerous occasions, we have seen heckling and walkouts during sessions.

MDC-Alliance MPs are using Parliament as a platform to stroke their leader Nelson Chamisa’s ego. Zanu PF MPs, are equally acting like they do not have the majority they boast of.

Instead of putting their numbers to good use, they prefer to use the two-thirds as leverage to threaten the opposition of possible mutilation of the Constitution, a case of a baby threatening to throw the toys out of the pram.

The Speaker of Parliament sometimes appears like a strict disciplinarian. If only he knew when to apply his firm hand.

When MDC MPs refused to stand up for President Emmerson Mnangagwa during his most recent State of the Nation Address and subsequently walked out, the MPs were slapped with a suspension of their allowances.

We expect him to keep the same energy when dealing with actions by MPs that betray the primary duty of Parliament. If MPs can be punished monetarily for indiscipline, then the same can be applied to incompetence too.

Parliament allowances are paid through tax-payers money and they are a remuneration rewarding the legislature for its oversight and law-making role. If the principle of making laws is no longer being respected by Parliament, then we question why we are paying them.

Is it not possible to put a commission-based remuneration scheme where Parliamentarians would be given money based on their performance?

We also need to ask questions of the whipping system.

Zimbabwe needs candid nuanced conversations; these directed diatribes are nowhere to bear quality debate and cannot take us anywhere.

All Parliamentarians across the political divide are working hard to appear thinly competent. They tow the party line without questioning, sometimes acting against the wishes of the electorate they claim to represent.

At this rate, we may get to 2023 before the ‘new’ Constitution is fully realigned.

A child born when the constitution was adopted will be in Grade 5. Time flies, our laws continue to be out of sync, as Parliamentarians continue to be obtuse at the tax-payers expense.

When shall we get value for our money?

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Daniel Chigundu

Daniel Chigundu is a male journalist in Zimbabwe and has been practising since September 2009. He used to the editor for The Business Connect (newspaper) in Harare, has his own news website Tourism Focus which is biased towards the tourism sector. Daniel is also working with Magamba Network on their project called Open Parliament where they do live coverage of Parliamentary activities on Twitter and Facebook. He is currently the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Journalists Forum, is a member of Zimbabwe Small Broadcasters Association and a board member of Digital Communication Network. He holds a Diploma in Communication and Journalism from the Christian College of Southern Africa (CCOSA), a certificate in Youth leadership training from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a certificate in Citizen Journalism from Magamba Network and is currently a first-year student at Zimbabwe Open University studying for a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Ethics and Organisational Leadership.

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