Parliament suspends last committee meetings

Jacob Mudenda

Parliament suspended the remaining two committee meetings that had been initially allowed to continue, as a precautionary measure yesterday.

The Public Accounts committee and the Agriculture and Rural Resettlement portfolio committee had been winding up urgent business, after sitting of both houses and the rest of the committees were suspended until May 5.

Clerk of Parliament, Mr Kennedy Chokuda, yesterday said the first confirmed cases of Covid-19 and the Government action announced by President Mnangagwa to reduce levels of on-duty staff at all ministries by two thirds had prompted Parliament to end the two exemptions.

“We have also asked most of our staff to stay home,” he said.

“So, there will be no more meetings until further notice.”

When Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda, announced the suspensions last week, Public Accounts committee chairperson, Mr Tendai Biti (MDC Alliance), said there were committees that were behind time in terms of their schedules.

He said considering that committees had less than 30 people, such committees should be allowed to continue to meet so that they conclude their work.

Adv Mudenda told Mr Biti to liaise with the Clerk of Parliament, as such cases would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The Public Accounts committee was interrogating the audit report for parastatals on how funds for Command Agriculture were utilised.

The agriculture committee led by Gokwe Nembudziya legislator Cde Justice Mayor Wadyajena (Zanu PF) was meeting stakeholders to establish how a US$27 million grain import facility from the Reserve Bank was utilised by the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe.

Early this week, Parliament suspended public hearings on the Constitutional Amendment Bill.

At the Harare magistrates’ courts this week, there was little activity following a directive by Chief Justice Luke Malaba to decongest courts.

No trials were being entertained and only court orderlies, suspects, litigants and lawyers were allowed in the courtrooms.

Four magistrates took care of business at the provincial court where they were postponing old matters and just moving to the initial remands of new cases.

Two magistrates were manning the regional court, largely adjourning cases to June and July.

A limited number of staff were also taking care of business at the Clerk of Court for both the regional and provincial courts and Judiciary Service Commission supporting staff was also cut in numbers.

Meanwhile, Chief Charumbira said there was need for traditional leaders to back the President by taking precautionary measures to rural communities where the majority of people live, to make sure the virus does not spread quickly.

“What President Mnangagwa has been doing in response to the looming threat of coronavirus is good and must be commended,” said Chief Charumbira. – Herald

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