ABSENTEEISM by legislators from parliamentary sittings or committee meetings is apparently not unique to Zimbabwe.
Report by Veneranda Langa in Germany
Countries like Germany have had to impose strict measures to rein in their own truant MPs.
According to Maren Dorner, an information officer at the German Bundestag (Parliament), German legislators have to sign a register of attendance every sitting day and if they do not attend, they are required to give a formal excuse why they were unable to attend Parliament.
“German truant MPs who cannot give convincing reasons why they fail to attend Parliament are made to pay fines ranging between ₣20 to ₣100 depending on the extent of their absence,” said Dorner.
“However, these fines are not severe because German MPs earn salaries ranging up to ₣10 000,” she said, adding the fines hardly deterred the legislators from truancy.
A veteran German journalist, Dirk Asendorpf, however, said non-attendance of German MPs at plenary sessions might not have anything to do with truancy as the House could sit simultaneously with committee meetings.
“MPs can register their presence, but be absent from the House as they attend committee meetings. There are also different reasons why MPs can fail to attend Parliament like cases where one may be unwell. It is, however, fair to impose penalties on those legislators who are absent without valid reasons,” said Asendorpf.
In Zimbabwe, absenteeism by an MP from plenary sessions in either the House of Assembly or Senate for more than 21 consecutive days can attract very punitive measures like loss of one’s parliamentary seat. MPs also register their presence every parliamentary sitting day or at committees and there is provision for them to give an excuse if they cannot attend.
Although no financial fines have been imposed on truant MPs, recently sitting allowances of Zimbabwean legislators of $75 per sitting have been cut so that they are paid according to the exact number of days they attended Parliament.
This was was after the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, Eric Matinenga, suggested MPs be paid in accordance with the actual number of sittings they attended.
According to a recent NewsDay research on Parliamentary Order Papers from September 6, 2011 since the Fourth Session of the Seventh Parliament was opened up to March 28, 2012 up to the time the House adjourned for Easter holidays, several ministers and MPs had failed to attend Parliament for many sittings.
The worst culprits, according to the Parliament register, were Tsholotsho MP Jonathan Moyo and Mines and Mining Development minister Obert Mpofu (Umguza MP), who failed to attend Parliament for 21 consecutive days.