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Ministers bunk Parliament

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All Cabinet ministers have stopped attending Parliament and despite complaints by the Speaker and his deputy over the truancy, not a single minister was in attendance during the question-and-answer session on Wednesday.

All questions with notice went unanswered prompting the acting Speaker Willias Madzimure to defer them.

This was despite the fact that the questions had been on the Order Paper for more than two months within which time ministers were expected to have researched and found answers.

On Wednesday only Finance minister Tendai Biti was in the House and answered two questions that came from MPs without notice.

The rest of the questions asked without notice had to be answered by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara on behalf of the absentee ministers.

Last week only one question out of a total of 29 was answered by the Minister of Public Works, Joel Gabbuza.

The habit of ministers bunking parliamentary sessions has become a cancer in Zimbabwe, but this crop of Cabinet which makes up the country’s inclusive government was the least expected to behave in this manner.

Analysts have condemned the ministers’ truancy and said they were wasting taxpayers’ money.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera said this showed there were structural problems in the GNU.

“There is no sufficient oversight role by Parliament when it comes to keeping the Executive in check,” said Mangongera.

“Ministers have an obligation to be in the House to answer questions, especially if they have been on the Order Paper for long and these questions are to do with their ministries.

Unfortunately they get away with it and I think the powers of Parliament need to be strengthened so that ministers can be censured.”

Mangongera said it was difficult for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to rein in the ministers due to the nature of the inclusive government.

The PM appeared unable to discipline ministers from political parties other than MDC-T, he said.

“Some ministers from Zanu PF hold PM Tsvangirai with a certain degree of contempt to the extent that they once refused to appear before him when he summoned them to explain certain issues.

There is a problem in the sense that the PM is supposed to wield executive authority over ministers, but he does not have sufficient executive powers to do that,” Mangongera said.

Another political analyst, John Makumbe, said the fact that ministers were trivialising Parliament meant that the inclusive government was doomed.

“We know for sure that a lot of ministers are earning money and driving expensive cars while they are doing nothing in Parliament. Some do not even know what is happening in their own ministries,” he said.

Makumbe said legislation was very vague when it came to disciplining ministers.

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