HARARE – The Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda will soon write to President Emmerson Mnangagwa seeking him to reprimand Cabinet ministers who are skipping the question time, scheduled for every Wednesday.
Only a few ministers pitched up for the gruelling session on Wednesday, leaving legislators fuming at what they deemed to be “contemptuous behaviour”.
Independent Norton legislator Temba Mliswa was the first to take up the matter with Mudenda, querying if the behaviour of the newly-appointed Cabinet ministers was consistent with the business-minded approach adopted by Mnangagwa.
MDC chief whip Prosper Mutseyami took over from where Mliswa had left saying apart from being unconstitutional, this had the potential to undermine Parliament as it undertakes its oversight role on the Executive.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, who is the leader of government business in Parliament, had appeared to defend his Cabinet colleagues, saying they had informed him that they were on their way.
But not convinced, Mutseyami reminded the Justice minister that the Executive does not dictate to the National Assembly how and when it should perform its functions.
This prompted Mudenda to rule that the ministers be reprimanded, saying apart from taking up the issue with Mnangagwa he shall also engage them at an induction workshop to be held at a Harare hotel.
“Just to nip it in the bud, I will raise the issue tomorrow when we meet the ministers,” he said.
“I hope they will attend 100 percent and discuss the implications of such failure to abide by the Constitution and Standing Orders. Furthermore, I shall write to His Excellency, the president, so that it is on record that when we started…” he continued amid inaudible interjections from Zanu PF MPs riled by the ruling.
Mudenda could not be intimidated.
He stood his ground, insisting he will not tolerate being pushed into making partisan pronouncements.
“Members on my right are not happy about that—we belong to the same party but that which is right must be applauded accordingly,” he said amid louder but still inaudible interjections.
“Order, this is not my request but it is the dictate of the Constitution and Standing Orders which all of us in this House must abide by. More so, Section 119 of the Constitution says ‘we all here must protect the Constitution regardless,’” he barked.
In making his point, Mliswa said it was “quite disappointing that ministers and deputy ministers are not here, in this new dispensation”.
“What good reason do they have not to be here? How can we continue like this? This is the first meeting where they must answer questions and they are not here. We have started on a very low note…,” Mliswa noted.
Mutseyami concurred, while emphasising the need for ministers to be punctual.
“The business of Parliament started at 1415 hours, whilst the ministers said they are on their way coming; they do not organise programmes of Parliament neither do they plan what they anticipate but we stick to what we have according to our Standing Rules and Orders and the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
“It is a problem if we have a situation whereby we would have ministers dictating time as to how we start programmes of Parliament that we wait for them while they are on their way. Probably, it is the new character of the new dispensation,” Mutseyami said teasingly.
It is becoming a trend for ministers to absent themselves from the business of the House.
During the eighth Parliament, Mudenda made similar threats and even wrote to the then president Robert Mugabe but no action was taken.
Even before Mudenda, previous Speakers of Parliament have struggled to have Cabinet ministers attend Parliament. – Daily News