Zimbabwe : Responsible citizenship and leadership

Lloyd Msipa

Gordon Hickley once said, “Every good citizen adds to the strength of a nation” How a nation is viewed by other nations very much depends on the conduct of its own citizens. Much more if those citizens form part of the leadership of that country. The behaviour displayed by the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDCA) in parliament the other day was for lack of a better word embarrassing. It doesn’t speak well of elected officials and responsible leadership

By Lloyd Msipa

You Can Respect the Presidency Without Respecting the President

Disagreement on political and social matters should not lead to disrespect. Disagreement can challenge us and make us stronger. It is part of democracy. Yet disrespectful actions take away from our democracy. The office of the president must always be respected if we are to have a stable country. It is important to know the difference between the office of the president, and the character or person who is the embodiment of that office. A lot of Americans don’t like Donald Trump for various reasons, but one thing Congressman and women will never do is seek to disrespect the office of the president. The refusal by the opposition members of parliament to stand up in acknowledgement of the President of Zimbabwe when he came into parliament on budget day was not only disrespectful of the office of the president but a disrespect of the people of Zimbabwe that voted him the leader of the second republic.

Parliamentary Privilege and the Law

Members of Parliament are not above the law. There is a limit to parliamentary privilege. It is generally accepted that Members can be arrested on criminal charges even within parliament. Police forces must first obtain permission from the Speaker before entering the parliamentary precinct in order to conduct an interrogation or to execute a warrant. The right to freedom from interference in the discharge of parliamentary duties does not apply to actions taken by Members outside parliamentary proceedings that could lead to criminal charges. No Member may claim immunity from arrest or imprisonment on such charges. We are all mindful of the Roy Bennet (MHSRIP) versus Patrick Chinamasa case. The scuffle in parliament on the budget day saw some MDCA members of parliament squaring off with police forces in the full glare of the president and other members of parliament.

The role of opposition in parliament

The opposition members of the MDCA in parliament are elected members representing constituencies. They represent the interests of citizens that both voted for them and those that didn’t. In other words when in parliament, the role of the opposition is to examine how to hold the government of the day accountable. By holding the government accountable, they hold the president accountable. The reaction to the president on budget day entrenches a culture of division. The opposition MDCA members of parliament took an oath acknowledging the very government and president and swore to serve with honour. The display in parliament doesn’t speak of members of parliament who seek to serve the government with honour, let alone the people of Zimbabwe.

The state of opposition politics

The elections have come and gone. The presidential elections where closely contested and the courts were asked to render a decision following a constitutional challenge. The highest court in the land rendered a decision and the incumbent, Emmerson Mnangagwa was duly sworn into office to be president for the next five years. It, however, appears that the opposition, namely the MDCA are still stuck in the politics of party contestation. Their refusal to accept what has come and gone will be their undoing. (Hanzi ipayi mwana majiggies ake) Do they honestly think that the incumbent will step down and hand the presidency to their leader? This is highly improbable. The opposition MDCA is living in cloud-cuckoo-land. No amount of demonstrations in parliament, on the street and churning out false propaganda on social media will change the power dynamics as it stands. The sum total of their actions is more polarity between the citizens of Zimbabwe.

What the opposition should be doing

The constitutional role of the opposition is to keep the government of the day in check. The opposition is there to keep the ruling political party accountable. The opposition complained of the need for further electoral reforms, surely, they should be using this time to agitate for these changes in parliament. Five years is a very short time. Before we know it, Zimbabwe will be heading towards elections once again with the same rules complained of in the last elections in place. The opposition members of parliament have constituents to represent in parliament. They have constituencies to develop. How do they hope to do this if they are in political contestation mode? Come to think of it, the very man they are agitating for did not do the same thing for Morgan Tsvangirai when he lost the election. He actually went to parliament and made his name as an opposition member of parliament representing Kuwadzana Constituency. He did it so well such that president Robert Mugabe gave him a cabinet position in Information Communications Technology (ICT). He didn’t spend his time in meaningless demonstrations but worked to improve his profile whilst waiting for the next election cycle. Today, opposition members of parliament are risking their own political careers fighting for a Chamisa cause that may never see the light of day as the politics of Zimbabwe continue to evolve.

Conclusion

The ruling party has a two-thirds majority. In essence, they don’t need the opposition member of parliament to pass the budget and other legislation. The continued wayward behaviour of the opposition MDCA members of parliament will see them being kicked out of parliament Malema style time and time again. They will find themselves unable to make any meaningful contribution to the governance of the country.

The citizens that voted for them will begin to question their sincerity and intentions. It cannot be #CCC all the time. Zimbabwe and indeed Zimbabweans are looking at their leaders across the political divide to offer leadership. There is a need for maturity and sincerity. This will start with respecting one another, respecting the laws of the land, respecting the office head of state and government. From there we will begin to rise as a nation.