By Wisdom Mumera
In July Tendai Biti (Harare East-MDC Alliance) delivered a vintage debate speech in Parliament, hitting out at the Finance Ministry over multiple infractions noted in the Auditor General’s Report, revealing how the spider-web of poor governance was spreading from there to everywhere else in the country’s sordid mess of state and parastatal corruption and ineptitude.
At the end of his allocated time, he was denied an extension after Honourable Remigious Matangira (Bindura South-Zanu PF) objected to the very usual move. There was no logic, no purpose and no aim to the denial but the ruling party side of the House celebrated the Speaker’s move.
Grey-haired female legislators stood up and banged the benches celebrating ‘an opposition defeat’.
The opposition walked out in protest since the denial was against Parliamentary culture and normal practice.
On Thursday 8 August Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube came to have the supplementary budget debated and normally the session was expected to go into the night due to a number of prickly points arising from the Zimbabwe economic situation as contained in that budget.
It never did that as the ruling party repeated its crude tactics, heckling debaters and refusing to budge on the most rudimentary issues until the opposition and the one independent member present stormed out in protest.
Before marching out Norton legislator and former Zanu PF member Temba Mliswa gave a damning verdict of the procedures.
“Mr Chairman, with due respect, I have no further business in this Parliament.
“This is a circus; this is a joke and a waste of taxpayers’ money. It is better for me to go to my constituency and work there. This is absolutely rubbish. How can you be running a circus-like this?
MDC Alliance Chairperson Thabitha Khumalo placed it on record that as a party they were withdrawing.
“As the MDC, the main opposition party in this Parliament, we are withdrawing our co-operation on this Bill for the very simple reason that you are denying us the chance to debate as Zimbabweans in order for us to come up with an informed position vis-a-vis our budget.
“Zimbabwe is on fire and people out there are suffering so we are not going to debate. We are withdrawing our co-operation,” she said.
In typical crude fashion the ruling party legislators celebrated ‘the victory’, they banged benches, chanted ED Pfee and then proceeded to belt out a string of ‘no debate’ responses to every part of the supplementary budget until it was passed unscathed.
On the same day, Kambuzuma legislator Willias Madzimure (MDCAlliance) had raised a motion compelling government to give an update on investigations on the 2015 disappearance of Itai Dzamara, a journalist-cum activist.
In response, Zanu PF legislators simply booed and whistled him off shouting that there was nothing special about Dzamara.
The Dzamara issues is a redemptive opportunity for the new government and allowing it Parliamentary room would be tactically good for them, alas they felt booing, reinforcing the street knowledge that they know something, was better.
For a country that is in a hyper-inflationary circle, an economy in tatters and no respite in sight the optics from Parliament have been bad and the latest gaffe, unilaterally passing a supplementary budget, without debate from the opposition, derails any hope for outside assistance and improvement in the nation’s attractiveness.
Zimbabwe is in dire need of outside support, financial and otherwise but the optics the ruling party has been producing from Parliament show how Zanu PF remains a crude relic of unbridled but ungainly power and force.
The ruling party, especially after the chucking out of the alleged G40 faction, has become a fist of power lacking the necessary finesse and mental acumen to steer the country steadily.
In an apparent lack of political statesmanship from their leaders, they have resorted to hardline tactics and antics which don’t pay attention to the macro-political environment resulting in numerous blunders and dead-ends.
After the abundant goodwill following November 2017, they have squandered it all, ostracizing themselves from every likely partner until all that is left are the “all-weather friends from China”.
Even the Chinese, as the Chinese Everbright Bank sanctions show, are not getting hard-ons from the government’s conduct.
The boondock tactics which they have been exhibiting in Parliament are the very acts which restrain outside investments and assistance which the ruling party needs even more.
Weak institutions have been one of the country’s major downfalls and Parliament needs to have its culture changed so as to be the independent and oversight arm that it’s supposed to be.
The attitude of seeking political scores every time is damaging Parliament and the ruling party has been celebrating wrong victories which are actually own-goals in the bigger picture of what Zimbabwe really needs.
The opposition is mainly that, an opposition and it’s their role to judge, weigh and provide an alternative perception and take to the many bills and motions that government may bring.
That doesn’t make them an enemy; they are important and needed in that format and with that approach for the production of watertight laws.
Seeking to ‘defeat’ them through whatever means, including guerilla tactics straight from the bush, will lead the country back into that very bush.