Time to focus on serious legislative business

0
875

It is now well-known that the MDC-T’s Lovemore Moyo bounced back as Speaker of the House of Assembly during Tuesday’s election that saw him battle it out with Zanu PF’s Simon Khaya Moyo.

Khaya Moyo lost by a fairly big margin of 12 votes, with two or three Zanu PF MPs believed to have voted for the MDC-T candidate.

Because of the beauty of a secret ballot, it is possible that many more Zanu PF MPs could have voted for Moyo, with the same applying to some MDC MPs who could have voted for the Zanu PF candidate.

This for me is very good for democracy.
Now that the election is over, it is time to move on and for the House of Assembly to concentrate on more serious legislative business that will put bread and butter on the table and enhance people’s freedoms.

This whole election process had become a huge distraction, with very disturbing allegations of vote-buying and political machinations to tilt numbers in favour of another political party being levelled.

The whole Speaker saga had no doubt poisoned relations within the august House and worsened polarisation between the political parties.

A polarised environment in the House kills objectivity as deliberations strictly follow partisan lines.

This makes it harder for Parliament to enact laws that satisfy the basic principles of good law.

It also makes it very difficult for MPs and parliamentary committees to enforce accountability on the part of ministers and government officials for fear of being labelled “sell-outs”.

Our hope is that the MPs will all throw their weight behind Lovemore Moyo and that committees will continue to execute their business in a non-partisan manner in order to advance parliamentary democracy in Zimbabwe.

Some committees such as Budget and Finance, Public Accounts and Mines and Energy have been applauded for their assertiveness and the manner they have gone about probing ministers and asking some very tough questions.

However, there are some that are still very weak and need to learn from how others are conducting their business in order for the committee system to become a highly performing “engine” of Parliament.

The Liaison and Coordination Committee, the forum of chairpersons of committees, must meet regularly to share knowledge and information and assist other committees to perform better.

The Speaker must have a greater interest in the work of committees and provide the necessary support in the form of finance, technical and material resources.

As head of the House of Assembly, he has the responsibility to mobilise adequate resources in order for committees to fully implement their planned programmes.

There is no doubt that Moyo has tried to preside over proceedings in the House in a fair and non-partisan manner.

He should continue to do so for the remainder of his term with adequate and genuine support from the Administration of Parliament, in particular the Clerk.

Allowing personal vendettas to take centre stage is unacceptable in a country that has to urgently address pressing problems on the economic, social and political fronts so as to enhance the welfare of the people.

The re-election of Moyo is important for sustainability as this allows him to complete important business he had started aimed at building a strong and vibrant Parliament.

Some of his prominent works include the development of the institutional strategic plan and revision of Standing Rules and Orders to align them with parliamentary reforms and provisions of the Global Political Agreement.

A major component of the revised standing orders is the introduction of the Prime Minister’s Question Time in Parliament.

The revised Standing Orders must be operationalised in order for the Prime Minister to face members in the House and respond to questions on policy matters.

My fear is that Parliament is going to be dissolved for the next election without the revised rules being operationalised unless the Speaker, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the Standing Rules and Orders Committee, gives the issue another major push.

I have said that it is time for Parliament to get down to serious legislative business, especially as we head towards elections.

The most important legislative business in the context of elections is finalisation of the constitution making process and electoral law reforms.

The draft constitution produced by thematic committees will have to be brought to Parliament as a Constitutional Bill for debate and approval.

Passage in Parliament requires a two-thirds majority which no political party commands, and requires support from the other parties.

Partisan interests should not be allowed to cloud the drafting of the Constitution in order to come up with a document that reflects the views of the people and our values and aspirations as Zimbabweans.

A democratic, people-driven Constitution will not have difficulties passing through Parliament and being approved in a referendum. Changes to the electoral law should be in line with the new Constitution.

Parliament will have a major responsibility to debate the Electoral Amendment Bill, conduct nationwide public hearings and ensure that a good law to guide elections is in place.

Other legislation related to elections such as the Public Order and Security Act, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, Broadcasting Services Act, among others, should be amended or repealed in order to create a conducive environment for a free, fair and credible poll.

At the end of the day, the performance of Lovemore Moyo is going to be judged on the basis of the nature of laws that the House of Assembly would have passed and to what extent the work of committees and motions by individual members have made the government more accountable.

Zimbabweans yearn for sustainable human development and expect Parliament to pass laws and policies that will achieve exactly that.

John Makamure is the executive director of the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust. The views expressed are personal. Feedback: john.makamure@gmail.com