HomeLocal News2017: An eventful year in Parliament

2017: An eventful year in Parliament

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THE year 2017 will always be remembered in the Parliament of Zimbabwe’s calendar as it marks a historic event when joint sittings of the National Assembly and Senate debated a motion to impeach former long-standing President Robert Mugabe.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

No one would have ever thought that Mugabe’s own political party Zanu PF would turn against him to move his impeachment motion in Parliament as they did last month.

Main opposition MDC-T legislator James Maridadi (Mabvuku-Tafara) had throughout the year made attempts to move the impeachment motion without success amid allegations that the Speaker Jacob Mudenda was against the move.

Due to Zanu PF’s factionalism, the impeachment motion was moved on November 21 by Manicaland Senator Monica Mutsvangwa (Zanu PF) and seconded by Maridadi during a joint parliamentary sitting as placard-waving crowds demonstrated outside the venue calling for Mugabe’s resignation.

Some of the issues that were raised by MPs as befitting Mugabe’s impeachment included:

That Mugabe must be impeached on several charges such as serious misconduct, abrogating his constitutional mandate by allowing former First Lady Grace Mugabe to make utterances on issues of government like appointment and dismissal of ministers and to glean highly confidential government communication;

Causing disaffection in the Zimbabwe Defence Forces by allowing Grace to make false allegations on them and harbouring fugitives like Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere from justice;

Reversing the appointment of Prosecutor-General Ray Goba to protect Moyo from prosecution in contravention of section 297 of the Constitution;

Mugabe’s mental and physical incapacity to represent the country because of old age resulting in him stumbling while walking, falling asleep during international meetings;

Denying hero status to deserving Zimbabweans such as the late freedom fighter Lookout Masuku;

Persecution and disappearances of activists like Itai Dzamara;

Failure to listen to the people and causing political division;

Holding 15 million Zimbabweans at ransom while the First Family thrived, and wanton firing and hiring of government officials;

Presiding over the death of the economy and Zimbabwean dollar, health and education sectors;

Destruction of the country’s infrastructure, and underdevelopment under his tenure;

Causing the deaths of more than 20 000 Matabele people during the 1980s Gukurahundi era.

Before MPs concluded their impeachment process, Mugabe succumbed to pressure and resigned in a letter which was read out by Mudenda.

Stunts by MPs in 2017

In October and November, Parliament sittings were characterised by demonstrations by legislators over their unpaid sitting allowances and Constituency Development Fund (CDF). MPs from across the political divide made noise shouting “we want our money”, and refused to contribute to debate on any motion or Bills until former Finance minister Ignatius Chombo paid them what was owed.

The government succumbed to their requests and promised MPs:

$75 per day sitting allowances owed since 2013 when they were sworn in as MPs and backdated to the Seventh Parliament for some MPs;

Duty free certificates to import cars;

Diplomatic passports;

Housing stands and laptops;

Chief of the stunts-persons in Parliament again was MDC legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga who, in October, brought handcuffs to Parliament to illustrate marginalisation of regions like Matabeleland in the country. However, the handcuffs were confiscated at the Parliament door by security and she could not use them during debate of the motion.

Drama in Senate

In September, there was drama in Senate during the official opening of the Fifth Session of the Eighth Parliament when opposition MDC-T Senators smuggled in placards and demonstrated against Grace’s alleged violent behaviour in South Africa where she allegedly beat up model Gabriella Engels, with an electric cable at a Johannesburg hotel.

MDC-T Senators sang Hatidi zvemadisnyongoro (We don’t tolerate nonsense)” and held placards in demonstration inside the House as Mugabe was reading his speech. Some of the placards were inscribed Go back to South Africa and face the full wrath of the law.

Bunking of Parliament question and answer sessions by ministers

Several ministers in Mugabe’s Cabinet continued to bunk Parliament question-and-answer sessions. Perennially, MDC-T chief whip Innocent Gonese would complain that ministers were abrogating their duties as prescribed in the Constitution by bunking sessions.

In December, when new ministers were sworn-in to sit in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Cabinet, the front benches reserved for ministers in Parliament were full as the newly-sworn in ministers showed verve and that their behaviour will not be the same as that of the previous Cabinet.

Non-partisan debate on motions

In July, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa was left with egg on the face after legislators rejected his proposal to recommend Industrial Development Corporation chief executive officer Michael Ndudzo as outgoing Auditor-General (AG) Mildred Chiri’s successor.

Chinamasa spoke glowingly of Ndudzo, amid fierce interjections from lawmakers across the political divide, who shouted that they did not want him as AG. MPs claimed Ndudzo had presided over failed State enterprises and parastatals including the National Railways of Zimbabwe.

Due to MPs’ interventions, government was forced to make another suggestion, wherein Chinamasa recently (in December) told Parliament that government has now recommended that Chiri’s term of office as AG be further extended.

Bills, Parliament committee reports

Clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda reported in the 2018 estimates of expenditure under the Parliament vote that a total of 13 committee reports were tabled in Parliament, and 12 Acts were passed as at October 31, 2017.

Most of the laws passed were to do with ease of doing business such as the Movable Property Security Interests Act, The National Competitiveness Commission Act, the Deeds Registries Amendment Act, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act, and others.

Parliament also had its inaugural open day as part of the legislature’s initiative to enhance public participation in its business. It was a two-day event which ran under the theme: Celebrating 37 years of Independence and Parliamentary democracy.

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