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Comment: Voice of reason must prevail

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The Senate is expected to resume sitting today after it had adjourned to February 8 next year due to disagreements over the appointment of governors who the MDC-T, led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, argued were irregularly appointed by President Robert Mugabe.

During this period, Finance minister Tendai Biti presented his 2011 National Budget that the MPs have commended during their debate. The $3,2 billion budget is premised on the overarching thrust to mould a modern democratic developmental state that enshrines the need for a growth path that guarantees social and economic justice. In other words, a development path that deals head-on with issues of exclusion and marginalisation.

This is welcome because a developmental state is the way to go. This can be defined as a state that achieves high levels of economic growth and delivers public services efficiently and effectively with a commensurate commitment to democracy, human rights and good governance. While there are threats by MPs to block passage of the 2011 National Budget unless it addresses issues such as their conditions of service, privatisation of loss-making public enterprises and reversing the lowering of customs duty on imported clothing and textile products, MDC-T senators last week vowed they would continue to protest against the presence of their Zanu PF colleagues who they describe as “intruders”.

The Senate has been recalled to consider the Finance Bill and the Appropriation (2011) Bill to facilitate their passage so that ministries get their budget allocations in good time. Ministries cannot get those allocations if relevant legislation has not been passed by both Houses of Parliament.

Yesterday, we reported that Tsvangirai had ordered MDC-T senators to comply with the call by President Mugabe that Senate should be recalled to meet today until Friday to consider the Bills, the ratification of agreements or protocols, as well as debate on any other Bills that are currently before Parliament such as the Public Order and Security Act (Posa) Amendment Bill.

We call on the senators to take heed of the call to report for duty for the good of the country. The senators had argued that until advised otherwise by the MDC-T leadership, their behaviour would not change regardless of the consequences.

Although Tsvangirai has asked his senators to co-operate, MDC-T’s position remains unchanged. The issue is, according to MDC-T, now being dealt with by South African President Jacob Zuma and is subject to further negotiation hence the U-turn.

Our call, however, does not mean their concerns are not legitimate, but their actions may derail the approval of the National Budget. Their message has been heard loud and clear, and we are sure the issue is being addressed through normal processes.

Of significance though is the MDC-T senators’ position shows they are independent of events in the Lower House. The Executive should not expect them to simply rubber-stamp its policies and legislation – otherwise it becomes a mockery of the whole constitutional doctrine of separation of powers.

We expect senators to be efficient administrators and effective in their role. They should know that in matters relating to the collection or expenditure of public money the Constitution gives a pre-eminent role to the House of Assembly. Remember when Biti tables a budget in Parliament these are mere proposals.

What is needed is a sound and credible budget that can be used by economic agents to plan properly and contribute towards the realisation of Zimbabwe’s developmental aspirations. Parliament can only be transformed if it begins to assert itself in the governance system and not be treated as a junior partner.

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