BY VENERANDA LANGA
SPEAKER of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda yesterday shot down a request by MPs to discuss the fuel situation in the country as a matter of urgency, saying legislators will get a chance to grill Energy minister Fortune Chasi on the issue during today’s question and answer session.
When the House resumed yesterday, Buhera South MP Joseph Chinotimba (Zanu PF) stood up to raise an urgent matter of public importance, saying since Chasi was present in the House, MPs should be allowed to grill him on the fuel situation given the sudden rise of prices to almost $5 per litre.
National Assembly Standing Order number 59 allows an MP to ask leave to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, but after first delivering to the Speaker a written statement of the subject to be discussed. It is not clear whether Chinotimba had done that.
“We cannot wait until tomorrow to discuss the issue because the Energy minister is in the House and the country is crying because of the issue. We want him to tell us whether it is true that the price of fuel has gone up to $5 ($4, 97) or not?” Chinotimba said to the applause of opposition MDC legislators.
Mudenda dismissed Chinotimba’s request, saying the House has a chance to pose questions to ministers on Wednesday during question and answer session.
“You have all the time for you tomorrow (today) to ask questions on matters of national interest,” Mudenda said.
The Speaker also warned MPs against going on social media platforms while the House is in session, saying he will ask the Parliament Standing Rules and Orders Committee (SROC) to come up with a proper position to ensure there is discipline in the House.
Meanwhile, Industry and Commerce minister Mangaliso Ndlovu presented the Second Reading Stage of the Consumer Protection Bill, saying that if passed, it will protect consumers from unscrupulous business practices and repeal the Consumer Contracts Act.
Chairperson of Industry and Commerce Portfolio Committee Dumo Augustine Musikavanhu said members of the public were unhappy about the three-tier pricing system and wanted all prices of goods and services to be in the RTGS dollars which is the currency accessible to them.
“There is need to ensure that all shops accept all modes of payment available in Zimbabwe because Indian and Chinese-owned shops are said to be accepting bond notes and refusing electronic money,” Musikavanhu said.
Harare East MP Tendai Biti (MDC Alliance) said, while the Bill is welcome, consumer protection can only work in a stable and sound economic environment, adding that consumers were suffering in that while the official inflation rate is pegged at 78%, the prices of goods are way above 300%.
“Zimbabwe is not producing and we are a dumping ground of cheap unhealthy products from China and 60% of our vehicles are second-hand rejects from Japan, which are not allowed in countries like South Africa,” Biti said.
He said the Bill should create a Consumer Protection Commission and not an agency and the Consumer Protection Committee should then be called a Consumer Protection Agency and have specified duties laid out in the Bill.
Makonde MP Kindness Paradza (Zanu PF) said the Consumer Protection Agency must be a stand alone entity not controlled by the Industry minister so that consumers are fully protected.