MP tells Mugabe Zimbabweans eat bread not laws

Dubeko Prince Sibanda

Binga North Member of Parliament Prince Sibanda said President Robert Mugabe’s speech at the official opening of Parliament was totally irrelevant as he did not address any issues that affect ordinary Zimbabweans.

“Generally, on that particular day, it is the day when citizens expect the Head of State who is the Chief Executive Officer of the country to speak to their concerns or issues that are affecting them daily in terms of their lives,” Sibanda said.

He said Mugabe instead spoke about abstract things like laws that he expects to be enacted. This was not what people wanted to hear because they do not eat laws. They eat bread.

“The citizens expected and continue to expect the President, when he gets an opportunity to come and address Parliament to speak about some of these following issues; firstly, cash shortages – it is very clear that the environment outside the banks where Zimbabweans are kept in queues in order to try and get money each and every day is embarrassing and undignifying to the people of Zimbabwe.

“Therefore, the expectation is that when the President comes to speak to the nation, he should speak to those kinds of issues that are affecting the people on a daily basis.

“However, when I went through the speech by the President, it appears that this issue does not appear at all.  The humiliation and violation of the right of Zimbabweans to have dignity, and to be respectable people, which is being violated each and every day was ignored in the speech of the President.

“The citizens expected the President to speak to issues of rising prices of goods that are eroding the cost of living and increasing the cost of living for Zimbabweans.  Hon. Speaker, it is clear that prices are rising almost each and every week in this country.  The expectation of Zimbabweans is that the President should be able to speak to those issues and say how his Government intends to deal with those issues.

“Speaking about abstract things like the laws that he wants to enact does not auger well with Zimbabweans.  Zimbabweans do not eat laws but eat bread and basic food stuffs that should be affordable.  Those are the things people outside are expecting.”

Full contribution:

HON. P. D. SIBANDA:   Thank you Hon. Speaker for allowing me to also debate on the motion of the speech by the President.  Hon. Speaker, generally and in normal countries – the date of the Official Opening of Parliament when the President comes to address the nation on the agenda of the next year, it is a serious event in the calendar of any nation.  It is an event that is supposed to take grip of the whole nation so that the whole nation can then pay attention to what the President wants to say.  It is one of the very few events except these days; there are a lot of interface rallies where we hear all manner of insults and despicable language not suitable for consumption …

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Order Hon. Member.  For your own information, we are debating on the speech which was presented by the President and not the activities of the President.

HON. P.D. SIBANDA:  Hon. Speaker, I think before you stop me …

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  I have heard what you have been saying concerning the interface…

HON. P.D. SIBANDA:  Maybe you are not following the direction that I am taking Hon. Speaker.

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Can you please proceed?

HON. P.D. SIBANDA:   I am simply trying to portray and give you the picture of how important the day of Official Opening of Parliament is.

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  It is alright, you can proceed.

HON. P.D. SIBANDA:  Generally, on that particular day, it is the day when citizens expect the Head of State who is the Chief Executive Officer of the country to speak to their concerns or issues that are affecting them daily in terms of their lives.  The citizens expected and continue to expect the President, when he gets an opportunity to come and address Parliament to speak about some of these following issues; firstly, cash shortages – it is very clear that the environment outside the banks where Zimbabweans are kept in queues in order to try and get money each and every day is embarrassing and undignifying to the people of Zimbabwe.  Therefore, the expectation is that when the President comes to speak to the nation, he should speak to those kinds of issues that are affecting the people on a daily basis. However, when I went through the speech by the President, it appears that this issue does not appear at all.  The humiliation and violation of the right of Zimbabweans to have dignity, and to be respectable people, which is being violated each and every day was ignored in the speech of the President.

The citizens expected the President to speak to issues of rising prices of goods that are eroding the cost of living and increasing the cost of living for Zimbabweans.  Hon. Speaker, it is clear that prices are rising almost each and every week in this country.  The expectation of Zimbabweans is that the President should be able to speak to those issues and say how his Government intends to deal with those issues.  Speaking about abstract things like the laws that he wants to enact does not auger well with Zimbabweans.  Zimbabweans do not eat laws but eat bread and basic food stuffs that should be affordable.  Those are the things people outside are expecting.

The speech of the President was supposed to address issues of unemployment levels.  Currently, it is not by choice to get into any profession or activity that you are in.  It is not by choice that we find everyone being a vendor.  I was speaking to people in Binga, my constituency and everyone has become a fisherman, not by choice but because there is nothing else that one can do except to become a fisherman.  In a normal working economy, Zimbabweans have a right to choose what they want to do.  Those that want to start their own activities and be self employed should be able to do that.  Those that want to go and work in white collar jobs should also be able to do that.  But, the kind of economy that we have forces everyone to go one direction, which is being a vendor, a fisherman or a farmer and nothing else.

Hon. Speaker, we also expected the President’s speech to deal with Government expenditure and priorities in terms of disbursement of the budgetary allocations.  Currently, the budget of this country does not deal with issues of welfare of Zimbabweans.  Basic welfare issues that we need to look at are issues that have got to do with the health of the population, education and the welfare of the aged and the disadvantaged.  Those are the kind of things that are expected from Government expenditure but unfortunately when you go and look in our hospitals, they have become shelves and there is nothing taking place in hospitals because hospitals are no longer dispensing health.  Schools – I am not sure when last the Government of Zimbabwe built educational infrastructure especially in primary and secondary schools.  We are no longer investing in those areas that are supposed to actually secure the future of this nation in terms of the human capital.  So, those are the kind of things that Zimbabweans expected the President to deal with.

We also expected that the President would deal with issues of retention of funds that are generated in particular areas.  I know that we always talk of indigenisation that there is need for people to benefit from local resources.  I come from Binga where all the kapenta fish in this country is basically coming from especially during these days of forex shortages.  There is no more kapenta that is coming into the country from Mozambique because there is no more foreign currency to import kapenta fish.  All the kapenta is originating from the Zambezi valley and when we look at the amounts of money that are being charged by both central Government and parastatals that are operating in natural resources, they are exorbitant.  But, how much of that money is going back to reinvest in those areas where the natural resources are being extracted?

We are aware Hon. Speaker that in some areas like Chiadzwa and other areas where there are minerals and mines, there are share ownership schemes that benefit the local communities but there is nothing that is happening in certain areas.  I can give you an example of Victoria Falls where the rain forest and other forests are generating so much money for the country but at the end of the day there is nothing that is being ploughed back into those areas as investment in those areas.  All that money is coming to Harare and how it is allocated nobody knows.  There is no transparency on how the monies that are being generated from the marginalised areas is being utilized.  So, our expectation is that when the President comes to speak, he should speak to those areas that are going to improve and those that have been marginalised for a long time, but we do not see anything in his speech.  What we see are laws that are not going to change the welfare of the people.

Hon. Speaker, it is my earnest view, like I indicated in my introduction, that the official opening of Parliament is a day that is supposed to grip the whole nation and expectations will be what it is that they will get from the President.  But nowadays, I am quite sure even if you count the Members of Parliament; the majority was not there because there is nothing that comes out of the Head of State’s speech except mere speeches about laws that are not benefitting the country.  So, we are saying it is high time that when the Head of State comes to Parliament, he should speak about substantive issues that are affecting the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe.  It should not be a forum where he simply comes to fulfill a role that has been put in our laws.  It should be a time when he comes to speak to issues that are going to change the lives of Zimbabweans.  Otherwise if he does not do that, it will simply continue to be a mere abstract ceremony that will not attract the attention of Zimbabweans.  That is why you see that even vendors do not care about the parades that will be in Nelson Mandela street but will be busy with real issues.  They know that whatever the ceremony is all about has got nothing to do with their welfare.  It is time that we listen to the Head of State speaking to issues of substance.

We expected His Excellency the President to speak about uncontrolled expenditure by the Executive.  The expenditure by the Executive in this country Hon. Speaker, is worrying the people that are outside there.  We hear of scenarios where the Head of State travels to each and every conference.  This other day I was listening to people in Binga saying this President – if there is a conference on toilets – he is going to attend.  Why should the Head of State attend a conference on toilets?  These should not be issues of emotions.  These are issues of what is obtaining on the ground.

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order Hon. Member, I think this is the same.  You are also talking about emotional things because the President is invited wherever he goes.  So, how can someone in Binga think the President is going to attend the official opening of a toilet?  I think at times we need to – aah…

HON. P. D. SIBANDA:  Hon. Speaker, unfortunately people in Binga do not see the invitation but also the people in Binga are aware that when Heads of States are invited to these conferences, some Heads of States actually send their Ministers.  They are aware that Presidents are allowed to delegate – what is the need of delegating Hon. Speaker.  Where there President uses $10 million to travel to New York, if a Minister is delegated to go and attend the same workshop, he/she will use less than a $1 million and then we could invest that other $9 million into social amenities of this country like in education and health.

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Hon. Member, your debate is very good because you are talking of very special things, but I think that you have to be careful not to bring some issues which are not supposed to be brought into a very good speech.

HON. P. D. SIBANDA: I am not so sure Hon. Speaker, which issues I have imported which are not supposed to be in this debate, because I am speaking to issues of …

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: You are now bringing in the travelling of the President.

HON. P. D. SIBANDA:  I am debating the President’s Speech and the President is the Head of State.

THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER:  Can you please proceed with the speech of the President?

HON. P. D. SIBANDA:  Thank you Hon. Speaker.  So, we expected the President to pronounce in his speech that he will now begin to delegate to conferences, rather than him becoming the only one that is travelling and with a delegation of all the clan of his family.  Hon. Speaker, we do not deny that the President is entitled to travel to conferences but, I think that the delegations that he travels with should be limited. – Insider