THE Parliament of Zimbabwe in 2013 was a year full of surprises, achievements and great disappointments for MPs who had to perform duties without payment of their allowances.
REPORT BY VENERANDA LANGA
SENIOR PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER
Half of 2013 up to June 29 when Parliament was automatically dissolved was made up of the Seventh Parliament session, while the Eighth Parliament session commenced in September after the July 31 harmonised elections.
The greatest achievement by the Parliament of Zimbabwe in 2013 was delivering a new Constitution for Zimbabwe which was signed into law by President Robert Mugabe on May 22.
The new Constitution was crafted by the Parliamentary Constitutional Select Committee (Copac) which was formed after the power-sharing deal in 2008 which brought together Zanu PF, the MDC-T and MDC.
Both Houses of Parliament had to be adjourned for long periods as legislators consulted people on what should be included in the new charter.
After countrywide consultations which were mired by political bickering and in some instances physical clashes, the new Constitution was finally approved in a referendum held on March 16 and also approved by Parliament on May 9 before the President signed it into law.
Some of the provisions of the new Constitution are already operational while others will be operational in 10 years’ time.
On June 13, Mugabe unilaterally declared July 31 as the elections date by-passing Parliament and other principals in the government of national unity Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T) and Arthur Mutambara (MDC).
Mugabe fast-tracked changes to Electoral laws which were supposed to be amended by Parliament and argued he had found it necessary to bypass Parliament in a bid to comply with a Constitutional Court order to hold elections by July 31.
On June 29 when Parliament was automatically dissolved, MPs were sent home without payments of amounts ranging between $10 000 to $20 000 each in sitting allowances.
They also had stashes of fuel coupons which they had failed to remit for their fuel allowances.
In June before the Seventh Parliamentary session was adjourned, former Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister Eric Matinenga said the outgoing MPs could take Parliament to court to claim their outstanding allowances.
The 2013 harmonised elections saw a total of 270 legislators being elected into the National Assembly.
Zanu PF attained two-thirds majority after securing 197 seats. 160 seats were garnered through elections and 37 which were seats reserved for women.
The MDC-T National Assembly seats totalled 70, with 49 seats being garnered through elections while 21 were for the women’s quarter.
The MDC led by Welshman Ncube failed to win a single seat through elections and only got two seats through the women’s quarter.
There were a total of 80 senatorial seats and Zanu PF got 37 seats, MDC-T 21 seats and MDC two seats.
A total of 18 seats were reserved for chiefs while two went to representatives of people living with disabilities.
Zimbabweans from across the political divide complained that the bloated Parliament with 350 legislators was unsustainable for a country facing economic challenges.
Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma relayed fears of space constraints in the National Assembly to journalists saying it will be crowded with 100 MPs without seats, adding some of them will have to attend sessions standing or seated in the Speaker’s Gallery.
In September Jacob Francis Mudenda (Zanu PF) was elected Speaker of the National Assembly while Mutoko North legislator Mabel Chinomona was elected Deputy Speaker.
In Senate, Mashonaland West senator Edna Madzongwe (Zanu PF) retained her position as President of the Senate while Chenhamo Chimutengwende was elected deputy President of the Senate.
MDC-T MPs did not second anyone from their party to contest elections of presiding officers.
On September 17, Mugabe officially opened the first session of the Eighth Parliament.
MDC-T legislators boycotted the proceedings saying the elections which saw Mugabe into power had been rigged.
During the official opening of the first session of the Eighth Parliament, Mugabe announced more than 13 Bills set to be debated during the session.
On September 3, new legislators in the National Assembly and Senate were sworn in including Buhera South MP Joseph Chinotimba (Zanu PF), Bikita West MP Munyaradzi Kereke, former police chief Oliver Mandipaka (Zanu PF Buhera West MP), former disc jockey James Maridadi (MDC-T MP for Mabvuku Tafara) and many others.
On October 17, Mudenda got one of his first tests as Speaker in the National Assembly when chaos rocked the House after MDC-T MPs sang and protested over the refusal by the Speaker to grant Gweru Urban MP Sesel Zvidzai permission to give notice to introduce a motion on elections.
Tempers flared again the same day when Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya accused Chinotimba of having murdered some MDC-T activists resulting in the House being adjourned.
In October, tempers flared again and the House had to be adjourned after Kwekwe Central MP Masango Matambanadzo who once made headlines as having gone up to grade two charged MDC-T MPs used to urinate on plates while they were college students.
The Speaker had to ask Matambanadzo to withdraw the statements and apologise for churning out un-parliamentary language.
Some of the motions that were introduced in the House of Assembly and attracted heated debate included a motion to provide an alternative sitting place for Parliament by MDC legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi Mushonga, a motion on Zesa intermittent power cuts by Mabvuku Tafara MP James Maridadi, a motion on sanctions by Mberengwa East MP Makhosini Hlongwane.
Leader of the opposition Thokozani Khupe introduced a motion calling government to introduce a cancer levy while a motion on proliferation of illegal structures in Harare and Chitungwiza was introduced by Zengeza East MP Alexio Musundire.
A motion calling for realignment of laws to the new Constitution was also tabled by MDC-T chief whip Innocent Gonese.
In Senate, some of the motions introduced were a motion calling for re-alignment of laws
with the new constitution by Masvingo MDC-T senator Misheck Marava and a motion calling for introduction of a cancer levy by MDC-T Midlands senator Lilian Timveos.
During the first session of the Eighth Parliament, most ministers participated in question and answer sessions.
One of the shortest sessions was when Senate sat for only 18 minutes due to limited motions on the order paper.