BY SIMBARASHE SITHOLE/JAIROS SAUNYAMA
PARLIAMENTARIANS, who were conducting public consultations on the Freedom of Information Bill in Marondera yesterday and Bindura on Monday, were irked after residents clearly exhibited lack of knowledge on the subject under discussion.
Tempers flared in Mashonaland Central when Zanu PF provincial deputy spokesperson Fredrick Nhaka accused the Prince Dubeko Sibanda-led Information, Media and Broadcasting Services committee of short-changing them by giving the Bill to MDC members beforehand.
Nhaka felt offended after an MDC official, Agreement Kagura, suggested that the Bill should give regulatory powers to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and not the Zimbabwe Media Commission.
Nhaka accused the committee of giving the Bill beforehand to the MDC at the expense of Zanu PF.
“As Zanu PF, we did not get the Bill to study it as my friend here who comes from the same party with the chair. This clearly shows that he was given the Bill beforehand, so it would have been fair if we were given the Bill before the hearing,” fumed Mhaka before storming out.
Dubeko-Sibanda reminded the gathering that the hearing was not carried out on political grounds.
“Let me remind you all here that parliamentary business is not carried on political party grounds, instead the people of Bindura have been privileged to know our political parties. Instead we work as a team in building our nations, so let us desist from labelling each other,” he said.
Some Marondera residents accused Parliament of not adequately disseminating information to the public ahead of the hearing.
Committee member, Kindness Paradza (Zanu PF) had to repeatedly tell the people that they were not accepting questions from the public, but rather contributions as residents kept on asking, a sign that there were poor preparations before the hearing.
Speaking at Mbuya Nehanda Hall in Marondera, Bulilima West legislator Dungimuzi Phuti (Zanu PF) acknowledged that Parliament had done a shoddy job in terms of information dissemination.
“I am not happy about the job done by Parliament in providing details of the Bill to the public. It is clear that people are not aware of what they are talking about. Before this meeting, the public could have been (given access to) the Bill, studied it before coming to make their contributions. We are just moving around as it stands, the legislative framework is not clear at all to the public,” he said.
In a bid to address the information gap, the parliamentarians ordered Parliament officials to send the Bills into residents’ email addresses, as well as via social media platforms.
It was clear during the Marondera meeting that the few who participated were choreographed because they failed to articulate issues while some were repeating the same contributions.
Speaking on the sidelines of the public hearing, Dubeko-Sibanda said people should read and understand Bills first before attending because numbers do not count if they are not aware of what they are being consulted about.
“It will be more meaningful to find a few people who have an understanding of the Bill than to have numbers who do not understand what we are consulting them about because at the end of the day they will cry that this is a bad law, citizens should access this Bill. I am encouraging fellow Zimbabweans to access the Bill and make meaningful contributions.”
A Bindura resident, Kenious Chigombe told the parliamentarians that the 21-day timeframe required for the release of information is too much, instead they should be given five working days.
“I strongly feel that organisations are taking too long to release information; the 21 days required is too much. I suggest they should just take five working days,” he said.
Ezekiel Pasimire said organisations should relax their rules and regulations and give the required information to the general public.
An artiste, Lameck Antonio also indicated that lack of electricity was disturbing the smooth flow of information and the price of data bundles was too much for the general public.
“We are saddened by the lack of electricity because it is affecting the smooth flow of information, we also see that data bundles are now expensive, so we implore the government to reduce the tariffs.”