First Session of 8th Parliament, a mixed bag
Members of the Eighth Parliament are sworn-in in September last year. Some of them were coming into the august House for the first time, meaning their contribution has been somewhat limited
Zvamaida Murwira Mr Speaker Sir
Inadequate resources, experienced by both the Executive and the Legislature, have seen the alignment of laws moving at a snail’s pace while the desire by Members of Parliament to be mobile has been affected as the First Session of the Eighth Parliament comes to an end
As the First Session of the Eighth Parliament draws to en end next month it is time to take stock of what has been learnt and how challenges encountered over the period under review could be overcome.
Parliament resumes sitting on August 26, 2014 when it is expected to wind up business for the First Session before closing in anticipation of the Second Session to be officially opened by President Mugabe.
Inadequate resources, experienced by both the Executive and the Legislature, have seen the alignment of laws moving at a snail’s pace while the desire by Members of Parliament to be mobile has been affected as the First Session of the Eighth Parliament comes to an end.
This has affected in a significant way the implementation by Zanu-PF of one of the pillars of Zim-Asset which is that of aligning several laws to the new Constitution as Government departments have been haunted by inadequate human resources owing to a job freeze.
As the revolutionary party marks its first anniversary since its election victory in the July 31, 2013 harmonised elections, it still has to grapple with a number of issues in Parliament where it commands a comfortable two-thirds majority.
Members of Parliament have gone for over two months without fuel coupons, hampering their mobility while it took almost a year for them to secure vehicles under the Parliamentary Vehicle Loan Scheme.
Some Zanu-PF National Assembly members enjoyed an edge over those that came though proportional representation together with MDC-T legislators as the former were given all-terrain campaign vehicles few weeks before the July 31, 2013 elections which they still use up to date.
On the business of making laws, only three Bills have been brought before Parliament, two of which had already been passed while another has just been gazetted.
These are the Electoral Amendment Bill, National Prosecution Authority Bill and the Zimbabwe Gender Commission Bill.
Secretary for Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mrs Virginia Mabhiza has blamed line ministries for the delay in forwarding the legislation.
Mrs Mabhiza told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs recently that about 204 statutes would be amended through the General Laws Amendment Bill to reflect the new constitutional dispensation while other laws were supposed to be brought for amendment as completely new legislation.
“Due to reasons beyond our control, the Department of Legal Drafting has not been receiving much from other ministries in terms of amendment of laws that need realignment with the new Constitution,” said Mrs Mabhiza.
Other laws she said needed realignment were the Land Commission Bill, and Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill.
Besides realignment of laws Parliament is still grappling with several other challenges related to inadequate resources.
They include fuel unavailability to travel both in constituencies by individual MPs and by portfolio committees to conduct public hearings on a Bill or on a topical issue.
For portfolio committees to travel they have to a large extent been relying on partners like the Southern African Parliamentary Trust.
Another challenge has been that of limited space in the Chamber of the National Assembly which can no longer contain the increased number of legislators from 210 over the years to 350 for both Houses.
One of the projects that the Zanu-PF Government will have to address is that of hotel accommodation and what needs to be done is the provision of resources to refurbish Quality International Hotel which was bought by Parliament five years ago.
This would in a significant way reduce the cost of hotel accommodation as at the moment MPs have to hop from one hotel to another as some have run out of patience due the ballooning debts owed by Parliament.
On other business of Parliament some Cabinet ministers have not been attending question and answer sessions, a situation that has seen presiding officers issuing warnings against them.
National Assembly Speaker Cde Jacob Mudenda and Senate president Cde Edna Madzongwe have threatened to invoke the powers of Parliament and charge errant ministers who did not turn up to respond to questions.
In an interview, Chiefs Council president Fortune Charumbira said the first year of office had been difficult for most MPs mainly because they did not have vehicles which affected their ability to discharge their representative role.
He commended the Zanu-PF Government for addressing transport challenges when it secured off-road vehicles recently for all MPs saying the delay had been a thorn in the flesh of legislators.
“There is now need for a change of focus to that of service delivery. Some of them have not yet been seen in their constituencies and they have cited lack of vehicles as the reason,” said Chief Charumbira.
On the quality of private motions by legislators Chief Charumbira said most of them had been mainly targeted at political opponents.
“Motions tended to be mixed in focus. Some sounded more of political weapons against opponents than unifying. We expected developmental motions which would have an impact on the lives of ordinary people,” said Chief Charumbira.
He said people on the ground were more interested in bread and butter issues, i.e. motions that seek to promote development as opposed to scoring cheap political points.
Chairperson on of the Portfolio Committee on Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development Cde Beata Nyamupinga (Zanu-PF) said the entrance of more women had enhanced debate in Parliament.
She commended some male legislators like Shamva South MP Cde Joseph Mapiki (Zanu-PF) and Mabvuku-Tafara Mr James Maridadi (MDC-T) for articulating gender issues.
“There are a lot of men who stood up very strongly and spoke on women issues.
They have looked at women issues from a national perspective,” said Cde Nyamupinga.
She said the first year for most women had been a learning curve hence not much should be expected from them.
With the second session beckoning, one hopes that Zanu-PF will strive to address some of the challenges that Parliament has been facing.