MPs express dismay at truant ministers

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MEMBERS of Parliament from across the political divide on Wednesday expressed dismay over the continuous absence of ministers to take questions and queried why they often sent their deputies who did not sit in Cabinet to respond to policy issues.

VENERANDA LANGA

On Wednesday, a few deputy ministers attended the question-and-answer session in Parliament.

MPs were not satisfied with the quality of answers they were giving in response to their questions.

This was after of Agriculture (Livestock) deputy minister Paddy Zhanda responded to questions on maize farmers which is not his jurisdiction.

Glen View North MP Fani Munengami (MDC-T) said it was unfair for ministers to continue absenting themselves during question-and-answer sessions because deputy ministers were not fully informed on policy issues.

“On a point of order, Mr Speaker, the reason why we have question time on Wednesdays is to ask policy questions to ministers, but what purpose does it serve to ask policy questions to deputy ministers who do not even sit in Cabinet?” Munengami asked.

“You can see from the answers which we are getting from them that they do not have any information.”

Mutasa Central MP Irene Zindi (Zanu PF) said it was inappropriate for Zhanda to respond to questions pertaining to maize when he was responsible for livestock.

“I understand deputy minister Zhanda is responsible for livestock and how does he come in that capacity to respond to questions on maize?” Zindi also queried.

This was after Zhanda responded to a question by Bikita West MP Munyaradzi Kereke, who wanted to find out government policy on ensuring that farmers got paid promptly after delivering maize to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).

Zhanda answered: “The floor price set by government for maize is $390 and assuming that farmers have failed to sell their maize somewhere else, that is when they will sell to GMB.”

Asked by Hurungwe West MP Temba Mliswa (Zanu PF) to explain why government had failed to pay farmers who delivered maize to GMB in 2010 and were still owed, Zhanda said he was not aware that farmers were owed for grain delivered in 2010.

MPs were not impressed by the answers and demanded that Cabinet ministers should make it a point to attend Parliament during question and answer sessions.

Last week, Kuwadzana East MP Nelson Chamisa (MDC-T) raised a point of order with the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda saying he should deal with the truant ministers as they were “making it a hobby to be absent from the House during question and answer sessions”.

Mudenda promised to deal with the issue.