Editorial Comment: Ministers must take Parliament seriously
THE new Constitution of Zimbabwe is very clear that the Vice President, Ministers and Deputy Ministers have an obligation to attend Parliament and to answer questions where the need arises, but it boggles the mind why some ministers feel they are above the supreme law.
Such gross disrespect of the people of Zimbabwe, as represented by their respective Members of Parliament, is something that should not be allowed to continue a day longer.
The National Assembly and Senate are critical governance arms that should function effectively. The responsibility placed on the two bodies requires that their members play their respective roles effectively.
The stern warning issued by Speaker of the National Assembly Cde Jacob Mudenda and Senate president Edna Madzongwe last week is indicative of the fact that a number of Cabinet Ministers are flagrantly absconding Question and Answer sessions.
Such dereliction of duty cannot be allowed to continue in a democracy such as ours. Those in positions of authority need to be accountable, especially to the people who voted them into office. It goes with the territory.
MPs are obviously answerable to their constituencies hence the ministers, many of whom are MPs themselves, have a duty and an obligation to respond to issues of concern and proffer solutions where need be. This in itself, is a critical part of the development process. They should treat Parliament business with the seriousness it deserves.
Section 107 (2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides that: “Every Vice President, Minister and Deputy Minister must attend Parliament and Parliamentary Committees in order to answer questions concerning matters for which he or she is collectively or individually responsible”.
This is a clear requirement that should guide the ministers where Parliament business is concerned. We believe that the concerned parties are well-versed with these constitutional provisions, but are merely trivialising them out of sheer mischief.
These sessions are critical in terms of bringing to the fore the issues that concern people while also creating platforms for possible solutions to subjects that pertain to the nation’s well-being.
Of course we have noted over the last few years that MPs and parliamentary portfolio committees have kept ministers and their accounting officers on their toes as they seek to hold them accountable for their actions or inactions. Therefore, it is almost understandable that some ministers would be reluctant to face up to these committees, but they must remind themselves that when they took their oath of office they were saying yes to responsibility, among other demands that come with their salaries and perks.
Their sudden feats of selective amnesia that have seen them disrespect the demands of their portfolios should not be tolerated, particularly at a time President Mugabe and the rest of the nation expect everyone to have their hands on deck to fend off challenges largely brought about by illegal sanctions imposed by the West.
The ministers pledged to serve the Government and its people to the best of their ability but now some of them seem to be finding the kitchen too hot.
We are certain that MPs are not up to any mischief when they ask questions, which are often sent in advance, but are merely serving the purpose for which they were elected into power.
So we indeed urge the Speaker and his compatriot the Senate president to descend heavily on those ministers that are too superior or too busy to attend question and answer sessions.
Invoking the contempt of parliament charges would be quite in order under the circumstances. This attracts punishments deemed fit by a selected committee which include paying fines or suspension from Parliament.
Also complicit are those backbenchers who attend sessions for a few minutes and disappear. This is also disrespectful of the business of Parliament. What feedback do they take to their constituencies when they are not up to date with issues under discussion? What contributions do they make to debates if all they do is sign the register and leave?
We believe no one was frog-marched to Parliament but that MPs were willingly voted into power. Therefore, they need to demonstrate their seriousness in representing their constituencies effectively.
If these people were to be named it would be useful for the populace to know which MP to vote out of power come 2018.
Parliamentarians should really earn their allowances by representing their respective people fully while contributing to debates that often result in the formulation of policy or enactment of laws for the socio-economic well-being of this country.
Any dereliction of duty is not only immoral but a serious betrayal of the trust lodged by the people that voted them into power.