MEMBERS of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs torched a storm in Harare yesterday when they furtively trickled out of a public meeting they had organised to collect views on the Electoral Amendment Bill, aborting it midway.
Initially, seven of the 18 MPs were present when the public hearing resumed, but they started trickling out one by one, leaving behind only committee chairperson Jessie Majome (MDC-T) and Zanu PF proportional representation MP Matiringana Nkatazo to face the restive members of the public.
Those who walked out were Mutare Central MP Innocent Gonese (MDC-T), Mutasa South MP Irene Zindi MP (Zanu PF), Zanu PF proportional representation MP Tariro Mtingwende, MDC-T proportional representation MP Evelyne Masaiti and Harare South MP Shadreck Mashayamombe (Zanu PF).
At least 200 participants, who included ordinary residents and representatives of civic society groups, were angered by the move and threatened to dump the legislators in the next election.
“MPs should not take people for granted. They are the ones who invited us here, but now they are leaving us halfway through the meeting,” a participant identified as Madzibaba Nyapfumbi said.
He added: “We came here in large numbers to contribute our views and now you are telling us the meeting is aborted due to lack of quorum. You are not serious and please do not take voters for granted otherwise you are not coming back in the next elections.”
Majome said the issue was beyond her control saying the MPs in question had cited other pressing commitments.
The committee this week held several meetings throughout the country to gather public views on the Bill which is currently at the Second Reading Stage in the National Assembly.
Before the meeting was aborted, Harare resident Collin Chavengwa suggested that the Bill should ban the sitting President from announcing election dates because the incumbent was an interested party in elections.
“The role to announce election dates must be bestowed on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission because they are the ones who know if they have adequate funds to run elections. The President should not be allowed to announce election dates because he can disadvantage other political parties and choose a date most suitable to him,” Chavengwa said.
His views were thwarted by some who said the Constitution stipulated that the Executive President should announce election dates.
Gilbert Kagodora said the Bill should specify that all contesting political parties should be given equal coverage by the public media.
Different women’s organisations said the Bill should be specific on participation of women and ensure political parties fielded female candidates.
People living with disabilities said they no longer wanted to be assisted to vote, adding voting material should be user friendly to allow everyone, including the disabled, to vote without anyone assisting them.
Residents also called for provision of tamper-proof ballot papers and voters’ rolls.