HARARE – National Assembly deputy speaker Mabel Chinomona has warned legislators against absenteeism and unruly behaviour during debates.
She gave a stern warning this week after Norton’s independent legislator Temba Mliswa complained that there were some MPs who just come and register their names before walking away.
“I would like the chief whips to do their job before I invoke a certain provision. They must call their MPs to be here. Chief whips must have meetings with their MPs and tell them that when they come to Parliament on Tuesday, they must come and work. Please speaker the chief whips must get their MPs in here,” Mliswa said.
“They seem to just come like young kids who are going to school to have their names ticked and go away. What is it that they are doing out there which is more important than this?” he queried.
“This issue is important, as a country we have been behind, but we are very insensitive and MPs cannot be insensitive at a time like this. So, chief whips must do their job or else I will exercise my rights in invoking something,”Mliswa said.
In response, Chinomona backed Mliswa, saying MPs must note that the general public is now disappointed with their behaviour.
“The point of order from … Mliswa is valid. I think members should know that they are representing the taxpayers who are very much disappointed with what is happening in this august House,” she said, adding that “it is sad that we can have two days of no quorum, but we are being paid by their tax. Honestly, Mliswa is not wrong with what he is saying”.
According to Standing Order Number 56, a parliamentary quorum requires at least 71 MPs.
Usually, on Wednesday the National Assembly will be full during ZBC’s live coverage of the question and answer session, but after that, most of them leave the chambers.
Last year, Kuwadzana East MP Nelson Chamisa suggested that the television cameras should continue rolling throughout the week.
“I want our Parliament, if it were possible, to be able to consider the issue of coverage of parliamentary debates be done 24 hours per day as the case in other countries like South Africa and Kenya,” he said as a point of order.
“I am raising a point of order, because once the live coverage ends, people leave this Chamber,” he added.
Chamisa said most MPs were no longer treating Parliament business with the respect that it deserves.
As far as most of them were concerned, parliamentary business is now centred on live television broadcasts.
“We should not only be in the House when ZBC is in the House. When ZBC leaves, we should also (continue to) debate. The majority of the MPs have left the chamber, I do not know if they are seeing off the ZBC crew to Pockets Hill or maybe this is just a bad practice that we now have,” said Chamisa.
Ironically, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa recently said government will in future give legislators free vehicles during their five-year tenures, departing from the current regime where members of Parliament pay for vehicles through their sitting allowances.
This would apparently apply for the ninth Parliament to be ushered in after the impending general elections to be held within the next four or five months.