SINCE independence in 1980 some bigwigs have become godfathers and godmothers of Parliament, clocking almost four decades as legislators.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
While it can be argued that long-serving legislators like Edna Madzongwe are useful in terms of their experience to control the flow of debate in the House and chide troublesome MPs, there are others who have clocked almost four decades in Parliament, but have nothing to show for the long service as they are missing persons in their constituencies and are not vocal in Parliament.
Political analysts who spoke to NewsDay said such people can be described as career politicians and the disadvantages of having them is that they end up chasing after personal enrichment rather than to serving the people.
Madzongwe has been perennially the President of Senate of Zimbabwe since 2005, which means she is currently serving her third term.
In March 2008, she was re-elected into Senate from Chegutu West constituency after garnering 23 032 votes against MDC candidate Paneairi Mokoesti’s 14 275 votes. She also beat the late Gibson Sibanda (MDC candidate) during elections for President of Senate in 2008 by 58 votes to 28, and in 2013 she bounced back again and was re-elected as President of the Senate.
Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, who is currently a Senator has also clocked more than three decades as a legislator.
MPs in the National Assembly have often complained that the minister is dodging his Parliamentary duties to attend the Wednesday question and answer session, but Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa (another long-serving MP) defended him saying Mumbengegwi’s absence from parliament is due to the fact that he often travels with President Robert Mugabe.
In 2008, Mumbengegwi won the Shurugwi-Zvishavane Senate seat by 24 055 votes against 11 988 votes for Vincent Gwarazimba, the MDC candidate.
Nyasha Chikwinya has also clocked a good number of years in Parliament, although in 2005 she failed to regain her seat after being trounced by Trudy Stevenson. She was elected into the then House of Assembly in 1995 before bouncing back in 2013 as Mutare South MP
Other Zanu PF legislators who have clocked at least four or more terms as MPs — some of them from the year 2000 include Sydney Sekeramayi, Obert Mpofu, Oppah Muchinguri, Sithembiso Nyoni, Joram Gumbo, David Parirenyatwa, Patrick Chinamasa and Rueben Marumahoko.
The opposition cannot be spared either, as some of their MPs have been occupying Parliamentary seats since 2000 when the party was formed. It means they have served three five-year terms as MPs.
These include Nelson Chamisa, Thabitha Khumalo, Thokozani Khupe, Murisi Zwizwai and Innocent Gonese. It is not yet known whether all these long serving MPs will seek to contest for another term during the 2018 general elections.
Political analyst Ricky Mukonza says it is not good for the country to have career politicians, it deprives the nation of new ideas from new political players.
“Career politicians are not good for the country as they deprive us of the opportunity to get new ideas from new political players. If anything, these career politicians become complacent and begin to treat public office as their personal possessions,” Mukonza said.
“More often than not they begin to pursue their private interests at the expense of acting in the public interest. Career MPs are bad for development of constituencies and the country at large. The irony is that some of them see Mugabe’s long stay in power as bad, but they don’t do a self-introspection on their own practice. It merely becomes a case of a kettle calling a pot black.”
James Katso the founder of Union for Democracy, a youthful non-governmental organisation said inasmuch as there is no law that prohibits MPs to run for continuous terms, it, however, defeats Parliamentary legislative efficiency because long service results in lack of new ideas.
“If an MP serves for half a century, it really does not make any sense, and I think there should be a piece of legislation to stipulate that MPs must serve for only two terms. This would improve MPs’ performance because long-serving MPs end up not caring about service delivery. Being a career politician also deprives the youth and women, who are naturally disempowered, the opportunity to get into Parliament,” Katso said.
Another political analyst Eldred Masunungure said other jurisdictions like the United States of America have MPs that have clocked five to six terms, but those have been performing.
“Whether an MP should serve for continuous terms must come from the will of the people. But, the problem is that it is political parties that impose on voters without assessing what the candidate has done. It is unfortunate that some MPs who do not perform well end up being re-elected.”
Masunungure said it is not an unusual thing in Zimbabwe to have long-serving politicians and MPs because Mugabe himself has clocked 37 years and he cannot tell his subordinates to relinquish their posts for new candidates when he has not retired himself.
“However, clinging onto posts does not only afflict the youths, it also affects development of constituencies. Long service in Zimbabwe is also across all sectors, for example the Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede, the Zimbabwe Republic Police Commissioner-
General Augustine Chihuri and other security agency heads have also been there for decades.
“It is devastating because new ideas and young people aspiring for leadership are blocked by those who have overstayed,” he said.
Masunungure said it will almost be impossible to enact any law which will clip terms of office of MPs as some African countries tried it, but failed.
“It will be difficult to remove term limits at lower levels when they have not been removed at a higher level. We still have a long way to go,” he said.