THE First Session of the Ninth Parliament is over — and now enters the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament. But some of the questions that Zimbabweans ask about the performance of the outgoing First Session of the Ninth Parliament are whether the legislators as representatives of the people, fought for people’s rights given the economic hardships that Zimbabweans are currently facing?
What actually happened during the First Session of the Ninth Parliament was that MPs were very successful in terms of fighting for increases in their own allowances. There were threats to even refrain from passing the 2019 National Budget if Finance minister Mthuli Ncube did not review upwards their allowances and improve their welfare as they were “paupers” and “poorer cousins” of the Executive and the Judiciary. Everyone now knows that MPs — through the 2019 supplementary budget are now getting $700 sitting allowances, up from $75. They also got diplomatic passports, although legislators from the opposition MDC tried to fool us by pretending they were not interested in the document.
The point here is not that Zimbabwean MPs should be disrespected and underpaid to the extent that they end up failing to buy presentable suits or outfits as our representatives who also go to high-level meetings. The issue is that people did not see the same vigour that MPs put when they demanded their allowances, being stimulated whenever they debated issues to do with struggling civil servants whose monthly salaries are a paltry $1 000 when a 10kg pack of mealie meal costs $54. As representatives of the people — one would think that MPs would sacrifice their own and party interests in order to serve those of the struggling masses that voted for them.
Several motions (about 28) to deal with the economic situation bedevilling Zimbabwe were also placed on the National Assembly Order Paper — presumably to be introduced and debated during the previous First Session of the Ninth Parliament. But the motions remained ink on the Order Paper and months passed without them being introduced until the First Session of the Ninth Parliament came to an end. This shows lack of seriousness by our MPs, who we voted for after promising us, during campaign rallies, that they would deliver and change things in the country.
The incoming Second Session of the Ninth Parliament is, therefore, a chance for our MPs to repent and show that they are serious about improving the lives of the electorate by influencing the crafting of relevant policies that will tackle the economic problems bedevilling this country.
Ministers, who have also been dodging Wednesdays and Thursdays’ question and answer sessions, should improve their very poor performance and begin to show up and answer questions. A review of their performance during question and answer sessions reveals that, on average, only 10 ministers out of more than 40 attended question and answer sessions in Parliament. For those who attended, their responses to MPs’ questions were either arrogant or very woolly, which borders on lack of respect to the citizenry who are eager to get solutions to the economic problems.
What was also disappointing was the continued election mode that opposition MPs maintained by always walking out on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s speeches. What this means is that debate on the Presidential speech during the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament will be characterised by Zanu PF legislators thanking and hailing the President. The best way to debate a motion, in reply to the Presidential speech, is to critique it, raising pertinent issues affecting the people. The opposition now is unlikely to contribute to that debate, and the only spectacle will be Zanu PF MPs continuously churning out meaningless thank you speeches to the motion, instead of telling the truth of how much people are suffering. It is actually disheartening that all what these big Zanu PF men and women can do is to sing useless praises to the President.
Now that MPs had their monetary demands honoured, at least citizens are expecting to see robust debate during the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament. Citizens hope to see pertinent economic policy issues being tackled in a non-partisan manner for the good governance and prosperity of the country. The nation is watching — and 2023 elections are nigh.