MBIZO MP-elect Settlement Chikwinya (MDC Alliance) has promised to raise a lot of dust in lobbying for media reforms and fighting corruption when the Ninth Parliament opens. Chikwinya also said he would advocate for live transmission of parliamentary debates so that members of the public know how their MPs were performing; whether they were articulating issues they were elected to bring up in Parliament. The following are excerpts of an interview between NewsDay senior parliamentary reporter Veneranda Langa (ND) and Chikwinya (SC) on different issues to do with his role after he becomes a fully-fledged MP:
THE INTERVIEW: VENERANDA LANGA
ND: As Mbizo MP-elect, what should we expect from you during the ninth session of Parliament?
SC: We still have an outstanding Parliament agenda because during our campaign period as the MDC Alliance, we managed to get feedback from people who said that Zimbabwe is still entangled in a society characterised by lack of freedoms and lack of development and transformation because our laws do not support investments and economic transformation. It would be imperative for our legislative warriors to craft laws that support economic development. We still have a society that suffers from the cancer of corruption and, as we go into the Ninth Parliament, we are going to preach about anti-corruption, government accountability and transparency. We are going to work with institutions that have been monitoring government expenditure, as well as the expenditures of minister and their private lifestyles. Mbizo constituency is also growing in numbers with an increase of 12 000 voters from 2013. This demands more houses and a local authority which ensures we sustain this demand by increasing the number of houses and social services. That will be my three pronged approach.
ND: During your short stint in the Eighth Parliament, you were vocal on issues to do with access to the media, what is your stance now?
SC: I am still very passionate about media freedom, plurality and diversity. If my party sees it fit, I am still available to be deployed in the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media and Broadcasting Services. I believe that while sections 61 and 62 of our Constitution provide for media freedom, the enabling Acts are still not clear and they lack sufficient room to allow for media players to be able to exercise their role to publish public opinion which is diverse and plural. I still long to see a Zimbabwe which has more television and radio stations and must not be directly influenced by government or the ruling party. One of our electoral malpractices in 2018 was lack of media opinion from the opposition and that affected the credibility of elections. I do not want to see a repeat of that, and so we (Ninth Parliament) need to prepare a roadmap for plural and diverse media, and I hope I will get support from progressive Zanu PF MPs when I raise those issues in Parliament.
ND: So, which parliamentary portfolio committees do you want to involve yourselves in this time, and why?
SC: I spent 19 years working and getting experience in the mining industry, first as a fitter machinist and growing by experience and promotion to become a mechanical engineer.
I have learnt quite a lot about mining and so if I get into the Mines and Energy Committee I will make more meaningful contributions; considering that it is where the majority of corruption happens. To that extent I wish to work with the likes of the energetic Temba Mliswa (Norton MP-elect). I believe that we can have a joint approach in exposing corruption. I have also chaired the Media and Broadcasting Services Parliamentary Portfolio Committee and I intend to join these two committees because they are at my heart.
ND: Coming back to the issue of media laws, do you still think that they are draconian? If so, which ones need to be revamped?
SC: Certainly, our media laws remain draconian and ultra vires sections 61 and 62 of our Constitution and international best practices. We still have enabling media laws that have not allowed for divergent voices from the State to be heard. The Broadcasting Services Act, for example, still favours State-sponsored media houses and that is why we find that all newly formed television and radio stations are largely controlled by the State, and that stifles media diversity and plurality. We need laws that promote media as an investment option. The Zanu PF mantra that Zimbabwe is open for business will not work as long as our media sector remains closed. We need to have the South African model where the State might have influence to establish media houses, but they also allow purely independent media players to establish television and radio stations and newspapers so that opposition voices can also be heard. There are other laws like the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), the Criminal Codification and Reform Act (Code) which stifle media reforms that need to be changed. We need to come up with one law that unifies Aippa, the Code and the Broadcasting Services Act.
ND: Who do you think has been stifling access to media?
SC: The main problem emanates from the presiding officers in government, and by that I mean secretaries of ministries like George Charamba (Information secretary). He is taking advantage of this misalignment of laws to stifle public opinion and plurality. We need individuals with (the) political will to attract diverse media expression and board members that are going to advise ministers with the truth, not bootlickers.
ND: You also used to speak strongly against corruption, what are your views now?
SC: Zimbabwe remains entangled as a highly corrupt society and for that, my wish is that as I go to Parliament, I should be deployed to committees that are going to have more than two eyes to see, expose and name and shame corrupt individuals. Society knows who is corrupt, but we need MPs with the spine to name and shame them. I will do so accordingly because I know what is happening in various State-owned companies and institutions. I hope that in the two committees I wish to be a member of, that I will exercise my role as an MP to expose corruption in government. I also hope that the media will have the spine to write the stories that expose corruption. In the Ninth Parliament, I will move a motion that all committees should either be broadcast live or delayed so that members of the public are able to tell if their MP is performing.