HARARE – Parliament is at long last moving to rein in government ministers who bunk Parliament sessions, targeting those who did not attend the august House’s business on Wednesday without giving apologies.
Those found guilty face contempt charges.
This comes on back of numerous complaints, particularly by opposition legislators, over ministers’ absence from Parliament business, with National Assembly speaker, Jacob Mudenda, threatening to report them to President Robert Mugabe.
Wednesday is traditionally set aside for lawmakers to question ministers on issues concerning the country but the members of the executive had developed a tendency to abscond without applying for leave of absence from Mudenda.
When last week’s session began, Mudenda told the House that truant ministers would soon be summoned to answer to charges of contempt of Parliament in line with the dictates of the law.
Responding to MDC chief whip Innocent Gonese who had reminded him to publicly announce the names of ministers who had sought his indulgence to be excused from attending before the commencement of the questions without notice session, Mudenda said he was still compiling the list.
“The list is being compiled and I agree with you, we shall get the list and the due process shall follow,” he said, adding that “the due process is that, we establish an appropriate committee on Standing Rules and Orders and then they will be summoned accordingly”.
While he did not mention names, Gonese had observed that while some ministers such as Foreign Affairs’ Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and others had accompanied Mugabe to the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, there were others who were inexplicably absent.
“We know that there are ministers who are not here and we do not believe that all of them are with his excellency in New York.
“We just want to be informed of those who have accompanied the president and those who have otherwise sought leave of absence and thereafter we can then proceed accordingly,” Gonese said.
Zanu PF MP for Gokwe Nembudziya, Justice Mayor Wadyajena, also rose on a point of order to complain about Indigenisation minister, Patrick Zhuwao’s absence.
“May you compel the minister (Zhuwao) to come to Parliament please? He does not even come over here. We do not even know him. I have got questions for the past three months.”
Other notable absentees were Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo, Ignatius Chombo (Home Affairs) Josiah Hungwe (Psychomotor) Saviour Kasukuwere (Local Government), among several others.
While opening the fifth and final session of the eighth Parliament, Mugabe received a rare round of applause from all legislators in the National Assembly after saying the conduct of some Cabinet ministers who bunk Parliament without reason was sullied.
Since 2013, when the eighth Parliament’s term began, it has been a common trend that questions on the House of Assembly’s Order Paper are often deferred due to ministers’ failure to turn up for the question and answer sessions, stirring opposition fury.
Mugabe said he expected robust debate from the legislators to ensure that the remaining 30 Acts that have not been aligned to the country’s Constitution are cleared.
“The many pieces of legislation for tabling during this session certainly mean hard work which demands absolute commitment and diligence from all members,” Mugabe said.
“Those who do not take the business of this house seriously have no impeccable parliamentary conduct but we expect robust debate and well-informed debate from all members who should always be present, punctual, disciplined, and professional and of impeccable parliamentary conduct,” he said, adding that much more is even expected from Cabinet ministers, who should lead by example”. – Daily News