WITH the national election done and dusted, it has become apparent that there are several Members of the National Assembly from the ninth parliament that will not be joining the new faces at the new parliament building in Mt Hampden.
They were the anchors of heated debates in Parliament and made meaningful contributions.
15 June 2023, was the last we ever heard of him speak in Parliament was dissolved on the eve of the hamornised elections. No doubt Biti was one of the best among the outgoing crop of legislators from the opposition camp.
He joined parliament in 2000 and for the 23 years, he was steadfast in articulating issues that relate with the general populace.
Whenever chaos ruled the roast on the exchange rate, citizens would rely on Biti to interrogate the relevant authorities, especially the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Professor Mthuli Ncube on what he was doing to address the challenges. He was renowned for taking authorities to task during debates in the August House and demand answers.
“Madam speaker Mum, Mr. Cowdray Park, should bring a ministerial statement to explain what is going on with the exchange rate, namhla katesi the rate is at ZWL$3000 and he should explain how we got here,” roared Biti. “Mr. Cowdray Park” is Mthuli Ncube, a technocrat, who delved into politics was contesting in Cowdray Park.
He lost the constituency to the opposition CCC’s Pashor Raphael Sibanda. As a result of the relentless pressure, Ncube introduced a raft of measures to stabilise the Zim Dollar to no avail, from 1:1 in 2016 to 1: ZWL$6 000 in August 2023.
This was Biti’s terrain, but, he would put his voice in all national interest issues that would be brought to Parliament.
At one time, the Minister of Energy and Power Development, Soda Zhemu, came to explain to the House to explain why there was so much load shedding in the country and to expound on what his ministry was doing to manage the situation.
True to his nature, Biti, as an individual who is absorbed with numbers, was more concerned on how much the ministry had spent constructing thermal power stations, Hwange 7 and 8, vis-a-vis what they would have ordinarily spent.
Searching for answers through grilling authorities in Parliament was his chore duty, and, in 2018, when he returned to the House after the general election, he got the post of Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee.
This was before turmoil hit his party then the MDC Alliance, when the outfit tore into two following internal fissures sparked by a succession battle after the death of Morgan Tsvangirai.
Those that stood with Nelson Chamisa were recalled, except for the embattled Zengeza West lawmaker Job Sikhala and Harare West’s Joanna Mamombe and Warren Park’s Shakespeare Hamauswa. Biti was a cut above the rest, whenever a draft bill was brought to the House for debate. On 18 May 2023, the House sat for ten hours, from 2pm until it adjourned at 0005midnight with the Electoral Amendment Act on the table.
it was battle of the titans between the justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, the tough-talking Biti, Charlton Hwende, Innocent Gonese, Willas Madzimure as well as other parliamentarians.
During debate on the Health Services Bill, Biti wacame guns blazing taking the Minister of health and Child Care, Vice President, Constantino Chiwenga to task whenever he proposed things that he deemed to infringe the rights of workers.
“Soko, Jena, chikumbiro changu kuti mupatarise ipapo, kuti vashandi havazogona kushanda zvakanaka thank you, maita basa, siyabonga,(It is my prayer that you amend that part so that health practitioners would work better, thank you tatenda siyabonga),” Biti would sign out.
As a lawyer, law-making was his passion, as a result robust debates that would spun until midnight or even beyond were anchored predominantly around Biti. Not always serious though, Biti would at times also lead in the heckling in Parliament.
At one point, after the Zanu Pf primaries, Buhera South MP, Joseph Chinotimba came to the House and as soon as he stepped in, Biti called him by the name of the candidate that had defeated him “ Chinotimba, Mudekunye”.
He once asked the Speaker of Parliament to caution Matangira Toendepi Remigiou, Bindura South MP from Zanu Pf against wearing “pyjamas” in Parliament. Remigiou was not dressed in really pyjamas.
“We know its cold madam speaker,” Biti giggled. But mapyjama haazoitewo madam speaker,” he added.
Biti’s partner in crime in heckling was the then Harare Central MP, Murisi Zwizwai. Zwizwai lost during his party’s internal selection process.
He had been in Parliament as Harare Central’s representative since 2003. The usually latecomer and at the same time non frequent comer to Parliament would be constantly thrown out the House for “behaving unparliamentarily.”
In 2022, he and nine other MPs, who had been re-elected into Parliament, challenged the Speaker and Parliament for not allowing them to wear yellow neckties in the House. The High Court application was dismissed by Justice David Mangota.
In his corner was then Mutare Central MP Innocent Gonese who was avid about electoral reforms. In the second session, he was popular for cynically quizzing the police over its silence on the security of the First Lady, Auxillia Mnangagwa after the President’s wife was heard in a leaked audio screaming at a commander of the Presidential Guard, referred to only as Murombo.
She accused of him spying on her movements. The First Lady is also heard in the leaked audio ‘pleading’ that whoever was ‘after her life’ should spare her and go for President Mnangagwa whom she says should be the principal target of the First Family’s supposed enemies.
In July, Gonese, standing in for the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, requested the expulsion of the head of Mvurwi Secondary School, Nathaniel Marusho, who continued reporting for duty despite contesting in the Zanu Pf primaries and winning the ticket to represent the ruling party in the just ended elections.
In the same month, Gonese wrote to the Zimbabwe Prisons ad Correctional Services Commissioner, General Moses Chihobvu, demanding action over the misconduct of ZPCS officer Caroline Manjongo, who took up a Zanu PF political post in violation of the constitution.
He was also once ejected from Parliament for smuggling in an issue regarding the incarcerated Job Sikhala during a debate on the Electoral Amendment Bill.
Gonese gained admiration as he fought tooth and nail to address all illegalities and any forms of injustice in his capacity as both a legislator and lawyer.
Other lawmakers of note who will not be returning to Parliament is Willias Madzimure. He was famous for his slip of the tongue when he referred to “castrated MPs” when he was meant to say incarcerated MPs.
But for the past five years he was relentless in his push, albet to no avail, to have answers on the whereabouts of outspoken human rights activist, Itai Dzamara, who disappeared in 2015.
Every chance he got in Parliament he would rise and ask the Minister of Home Affairs, Kazembe Kazembe to bring a ministerial statement on the whereabouts of the journalist cum activist. But for the past three years, Kazembe did not bring the statement.
His last request in the House was met with the usual answer from the presiding Speaker: “The minister will be informed.”
“Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. It is now almost eight months since I raised a point of national interest on the disappearance of Itai Dzamara. I asked the Minister of Home Affairs to come to this House and inform us on the investigations that he had said they were conducting on the disappearance of Itai Dzamara who disappeared on the 9th March, 2015. On two occasions the minister promised to bring a Ministerial Statement updating the nation on the investigations. It is now more than eight years. Thank you,” he said.
The presiding Speaker simply said he would ensure that the statement would be brought to the House.
“I take responsibility with my clerks at the table to ensure that the Minister will give that statement,” he said. And that was it.
On the Zanu PF side, stood Dexter Nduna, a controversial politican, whose entry into Parlia ment was shrouded in controversy.
Nduna managed five years in the August House despite losing in the national election. He would stand up to demonstrate his wide comprehension of English vocabularies before making his issue about Chegutu West.
“Madam speaker, my heart is on the right side on this matter with the people of Chegutu West. When it comes to issues to do with effective and efficient utilisation of the resources that we have to get energy, my ear is on the right side,” he would always say.
“Here is an opportunity to use our minerals, particularly lithium. They spoke so vociferously about lithium but we are calling upon the Elon Musk of our time, if he is listening to this, I know he is going to download this debate and hear that this Hon. Member from Chegutu West Constituency, close to Patricia Nyamadzawo, Sarah Chikukwa, Marjory Ruzha and Million Daniel, was talking about the lack of exportation of lithium in its raw form,” he once said. Nduna would also project an image of being a messenger and would say: “The people send their love”.
On his side also stood, Joseph Chinotimba, a man known for his inclination towards the vernacular Shona language. His two terms in Parliament have left dents of laughter and was famed for raising issues of national importance.
When the opposition CCC MPs came into Parliament for the first time they wore yellow ties, and the objection came from Chinotimba complaining that the MPs were in breach of Parliament regulations by wearing their party regalia.
As a result, the yellow colour became literally an illegal colour in Parliament. Hoping the new comers to the National Assembly will bring as much life to the House as Chinotimba did.
The biggest shock from the elections is the loss of Temba Mliswa, the vociferous politician who brought life to the Ninth Parliament with robust contributions.
Mliswa lost the Norton parliamentary seat to the CCC’s Richard Tsvangirai.
He was the only independent candidate in the Ninth Session and would be very vocal about the welfare of parliamentarians and Zimbabweans in general.
Mliswa also had his fair share of expulsions usually from heated sessions.