Something very interesting is taking place in the House of Assembly.
From the Editor’s Desk by Tangai Chipangura
Our legislators that have hitherto been famed for sleeping in the House are suddenly full of life. Not only are they awake, but they are surprising many with real good brains — in fact, intelligence that nobody would have guessed they possessed.
What is more and pleasantly surprising is that Parliamentarians are displaying unity of purpose — a very rare feature in a House that had become known for perpetual division and polarisation along party lines — nevermind the gravity or pettiness of debate.
Our legislators have thrown all mundane political squabbling out the window and are standing together in defence of their constituents and their country. The past week has seen Joseph Chinotimba, MP for Buhera South and Settlement Chikwinya (Mbizo MP), two embodiments of Zanu PF and MDC-T who would fight to the death for their respective parties — standing together like brothers, both of them angry and close to tears, fighting a common enemy; corruption.
Such show of oneness gives the voter comfort and confidence that their interests are being looked after. For a change, and hopefully forever, our Parliamentarians are doing what they ought to be doing in the House — not snoring or fighting over trivialities. They are fighting Zimbabwe’s enemy Number One — corruption — with all effort and we are waiting to see results.
Chikwinya stood up in the House on Friday demanding action by Parliament and exposing attempts by Clerk of Parliament, Austin Zvoma to stifle corruption investigation by MPs. He described Parliamentarians as a “family” of leaders with an obligation to protect the ordinary Zimbabwean who voted them into power.
“We need to know because we are a family and we are entitled, through the Constitution of Zimbabwe, to represent people, and not the administration of Parliament,” he said. And, in just the right manner MPs should act, he demanded that Zvoma’s own salary be divulged to the House because his attempts at shielding debate on corruption and obscene salaries were suspicious. Chikwinya received overwhelming support from the entire House.
Indeed it boggles the mind why administrators of Parliament could seek to tell legislators what to debate or what not to — especially making deliberate effort to stifle debate on corruption. It was only after, through sheer determination to root out the vice, MPs “travelled so many times between the office of the Clerk of Parliament and the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda” that the motion to debate corruption was finally tabled before Parliament.
The excuse to keep MPs out of this very critical subject of debate had been that, dealing with corruption was “the prerogative of the Executive and, therefore, we cannot discuss the matter in Parliament”. What hogwash!
Corruption kills a country and the ordinary person suffers most from its effects. Now, if MPs who are the representatives of the people are told to shut up and say nothing about corruption, who will the people look up to for protection? The Executive?
It gives the much-needed lift to the spirit to know that MPs have now resolved to set up their own committees to investigate corruption allegations. It is refreshing too to hear Chinotimba raise his voice calling for the President to fire any Cabinet minister who may attempt to hinder the work of these committees.
Said Chinotimba: “If there is a minister who is going to try and detract or disturb the investigating committees, the President should dethrone that minister.”
It is not very often that we hear Zanu PF Members of Parliament calling for such open censure of Cabinet ministers — all of whom are Zanu PF officials.
In another encouraging show of maturity and reliability, our MPs have called on individuals, including ministers and top executives fingered in corruption, to do the honourable thing and resign. They made a correct observation that it had become tradition in Zimbabwe to reward corrupt officials instead of punishing them.
It is indeed time that bad behaviour is punished and we encourage our representatives in Parliament to push for that. It is not good enough to name and shame these national plunderers because some of them have developed such thick skins they will not be ashamed by anything at all.
They find nothing wrong about taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in monthly salaries out of contributions made by people living on one dollar per day!
It is proper and good that, as President Robert Mugabe has said, corruption allegations are investigated and evidence found before suspects are interrogated in courts of law. But then this process may never come to fruition if some of those people entrusted with the investigation, finding evidence, prosecuting and judging may themselves be compromised.
A big institution like Parliament, where processes involve more than just two or so people, would therefore be more reliable in at least bringing out the much needed evidence and pushing for action.
The issue brought up by MP Chikwinya about having researchers seconded to parliamentary committees is one vital proposal that parliament should consider seriously. The usefulness of such researchers could never be over-emphasised.
Chikwinya summed up the need for such an arrangement very aptly: “I am a politician, but the intellectual and technical capacity is born out of technical research so that we do not come here and give streetwise debate.”
All in all, the direction that our Parliamentarians have taken, especially in the fight against corruption, must be lauded by every citizen of this country.
Corruption is Zimbabwe’s biggest enemy and must be destroyed at any cost — it does not matter whose heads must roll.