Political egos: Zimbabwe’s cancer

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday officially opened the 10th Parliament session.

A WEEK is indeed a very long time in politics. Zimbabwe had an eventful week where both the President and opposition pumped their egos yet did nothing politically significant through their actions.

It was like reading Freud where the boys are arguing who has a bigger anatomy. It is neither here nor there but in all these silly games it's Zimbabwe that is suffering. Seems to be no immediate solution to the questions of bread and butter that the citizens need as of yesterday.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday officially opened the 10th Parliament session. He was elated with the performance of his party — Zanu PF — which just fell a few seats from securing another two-thirds majority in parliament. Mnangagwa repeated his statement that elections in Zimbabwe “were free, fair and credible” much to the chagrin of the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).

Mnangagwa first said the “free, fair and credible” election talk at last month’s United Nations General Assembly address. He is trying hard to whitewash Sadc, EU and other observer missions’ reports that noted the Zimbabwe elections fell short of the domestic, regional and international norms.

CCC snubbed the official opening, immediately changing the political narrative as news headlines all focused on the opposition’s action. Mnangagwa was seething. It can be seen by what his justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and the speaker of Parliament said.

Ziyambi threatened that the government was considering tweaking the Political Parties Finance Act so that in future “unpatriotic” opposition parties would be stopped from getting State funding even if they qualify.

It is a fact that the Political Parties Finance Act needs urgent amendments to limit election expenses and put deterrent sanctions against parties that fail to table election expenses at the end of each financial year.

It is on record that Zanu PF used more than US$200 million in the recent elections, yet no list of donors or sources of funds were revealed. Who were the donors? Did they not capture the party and the subsequent government? These are hard questions Zimbabwe should grapple with urgently.

Let us turn to the CCC boycott of parliament’s official opening. It is disheartening that the opposition legislators who were sworn in less than three weeks ago took it upon themselves to make a political statement that has no consequence except just scoring brownie points.

Some of the CCC legislators came to Harare from their constituencies at parliament’s expense yet decided to boycott at the last moment. It is true that Mnangagwa was embarrassed by the action. This can be explained by the immediate backlash from the Speaker of Parliament and Ziyambi.

However, what is clear is that Zanu PF will henceforth not going to treat the opposition with kid gloves. Opposition leaders should expect arrests and never-ending prosecutions in the courts. They should be prepared for cold reception from Zanu PF ministers in the chamber during debates. Or worse still, they will not be given an audience to debate the President’s speech when parliament resumes next week.

This drama seems to be the main theme of the 10th parliament. It is detrimental to the nation. It is diabolic to the taxpayers who fund this. Politicians can and should do better than this.

Mnangagwa is an ambitious man, too ambitious for his own good. How on earth can he table 60 Bills to be debated in the first session of this parliamentary term? This is overly ambitious and therefore, unachievable.

In the last parliament, Mnangagwa brought a total of about 105 Bills to the house. Of these, only 37 Bills passed in parliament. In other words, just slightly over a third of the business before the house was done. 

Of the passed Bills, nearly a third were the compulsory Finance Act and Appropriation Bills. In simple terms, Mnangagwa failed to deliver according to his own legislative scorecard despite enjoying a two thirds majority in Parliament.

The only reason for the legislative agenda is Mnangagwa wants to be seen to be a busy man. He wants to be a man whose hands are always full, yet he delivers very little — only enough laws to see him tax the citizens and use the money for flights, buying chiefs and buying the next elections through the Presidential Inputs Scheme for peasant farmers.

It is not too late for Mnangagwa to give another short statement highlighting which are his top 10 Bills that should be prioritised by parliament. This is good for the nation in many ways. It gives room for the woefully understaffed drafting section at the Attorney-General’s office time to do what is practical. It also gives parliament time to do enough consultations on the Bills with the public.

Like in the previous installment, the CCC should show its cards research and give Zanu PF a good debate on matters before parliament. They should punch holes on bad legislation and help make good laws for the good of the country.

The CCC caucus should take the opportunity to evenly spread its members across parliamentary portfolio committees and hold the Mnangagwa administration to account for each of its actions. This needs more than photo opportunities and a few soundbites full of fury but signifying nothing.

It is time that politicians must cut their egos to size. They must start by being responsible and stop giving us drama that changes nothing in the lives of the citizens. Zimbabweans need a working economy, good health services, a pension for the old, wages and salaries commensurate with their labour efforts and good public education for the kids. Zimbabwe cannot continue having medieval diseases like cholera in this century. Politicians must shape up or ship out!

Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist based in Harare. He writes here in his personal capacity.

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