Chokuda challenges Sadc MPs on child rights protection

CLERK of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda has challenged legislators in the Sadc region to champion children’s rights to force the Executive to implement their statutory obligations to protect children.

By Veneranda Langa

Addressing child rights activists from the Sadc region attending a Child Rights Network for Southern Africa conference in Harare on Wednesday, Chokuda said Parliament had been able to lobby the Executive to include a budget that deals with orphaned and poor children to get assistance under programmes such as Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM).

“Last year, our Parliament of Zimbabwe managed to cause the Executive to allocate an additional $65 million to the Ministry of Health, which deals with children’s issues,” he said.

“MPs in the Sadc region are requested to bring motions for debate that do with children’s rights, and ensure that children and youth issues are mainstreamed at national level and government programmes.”

Chokuda said Parliamentarians must also deal with human trafficking, access to education, health, food and shelter.

“Zimbabwe is one of the countries which is a transit point for human trafficking and Parliament of Zimbabwe has raised a lot of issues pertaining to human trafficking legislation. We are one country that is trying to ensure that child trafficking does not take place.”

Delegates from Angola and Mozambique asked Chokuda to explain if Zimbabwe’s MPs were playing an adequate oversight role on the Executive implementation of the budget, including treatment of children living with disabilities.

Andrea Augusto from Angola said there was need for Parliaments to curb misuse of funds allocated for children.

“For example, in Angola, between 2015 to 2017, thousands of people died because $4 million allocated to combat malaria by the Global Fund was misused, and most of the people that died were children,” Augusto said.

Amelia Fernanda Cardoso, from Mozambique, said there was need for MPs in the Sadc region to monitor enforcement of children’s laws, and ensure that children in conflict situations were protected.

Chokuda said in order to curb misuse of funds by government departments, the Auditor-General audits all public funds.

He said the Public Accounts Committee always grills public officials to expose corruption pointed out by the AG’s reports.

The delegates also asked Chokuda to explain if MPs would be allowed to be mum thoughout their five-year terms.

“Unfortunately, MPs are elected by the electorate and we cannot force them to speak in Parliament. It is the people that elected them that should bring them to account and check if their MP is performing. On CDF [Constituency Development Fund], we formulated the CDF constitution and the accounting officer’s manual to ensure that the money allocated to MPs for CDF is not misused,” Chokuda said.

On live Parliament broadcasts, Chokuda said the Parliament of Zimbabwe had signed a memorandum of understanding with an international broadcaster to ensure there was increased live coverage of Parliament.

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