BY VENERANDA LANGA
SPEAKER of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda yesterday decried voter apathy, saying legislators should look deeply into the issue to find out why only 35% of the voting population actually participates in elections.
Mudenda said this in Kariba during a workshop for the Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Budget and Finance as well as that on Youth, which was facilitated by Action Aid Zimbabwe in order to train Members of Parliament on the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG).
“We need to promote a system of government that is representative. For example, are the governments in Africa representative, when in fact on average only 35% of the voting electorate cast their vote? As MPs, we have to find out why only 35% of the people cast their vote,” Mudenda said.
“There must be participatory democracy via universal suffrage as an inalienable right of the people to participate in elections, otherwise universal suffrage becomes misplaced,” he said.
He said ACDEG principles should be domesticated into municipal laws by Parliament in order to promote good governance.
Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs minister Mary Mliswa-Chikoka said leaders should be capacitated for delivery of good governance and, therefore, it was imperative for MPs to be knowledgeable about ACDEG.
Action Aid Zimbabwe national director Joy Mabenge said the ACDEG training for MPs came at a time his organisation had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Parliament of Zimbabwe to work with nine parliamentary portfolio committees on capacity enhancement.
“It is important for MPs to learn the charter so that they are able to present African solutions for African problems,” Mabenge said.
Constitutional expert James Tsabora said there was need for MPs to check for bad governance indicators as stipulated by ACDEG because African countries are often criticised by the West for lack of good governance, bad politics, and maladministration.
But Mudenda said democracy evolved slowly even in countries that were considered democratic such as the United States and the Great Britain, where it took them hundreds of years to entrench democracy and, therefore, the West should not expect Africa to evolve fast in terms of democracy.
“Democracy can be costly for leaders that want to evolve fast. We need to interrogate the issue of how we have evolved as a democracy. We had the government of national unity in 2009 and we started evolving dramatically and came up with the 2013 Constitution, which we are still trying to polish up,” Mudenda said.
Mutasa Central MP Trevor Saruwaka (MDC Alliance) said Mudenda should not give excuses for Zimbabwe’s failure to promote democracy and must support ACDEG principles and the Constitution.