In a nation baffled by the laughable actions of the former ‘Teflon Don’ of Manicaland, Didymus Mutasa, who believes Zimbabwe owes him a few luxury vehicles, a multi-million dollar mansion, a blank cheque, school fees and pocket money for his children – as a retirement package for the highly rewarding times he spent working in Parliament and government – let us step back and reflect on the roles of Members of Parliament.
By Tafi Mhaka
MPs have two main responsibilities that is legislative and constituency representation but the question is how well do they represent the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe?
The World Bank has predicted that the economy of Zimbabwe will grow by just over 2% in 2017, primarily because of drought and macroeconomic imbalances. So, will MPs enact laws that can facilitate greater economic growth and safeguard public funds, particularly when 72% of the nation is stuck in poverty, and the bigger picture – high economic growth and lower levels of corruption and mismanagement of public capital – looks lost in the long running political brawl that has cast a long and dark shadow over Zimbabwe?
In the aftermath of highly disputed polls in 2000, 2002, 2008 and 2013, countless MPs characteristically neglect the silent voices of millions who do not want to vote because they have zero faith in the institutions and processes run by Rita Makarau and Tobaiwa Mudede.
The electoral process disregards the disenfranchised millions of citizens that live in South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia, Britain and America, who are unwilling to expend valuable currency on traveling to Zimbabwe twice to register and vote for an aspiring MP, who may or may not do the right things once he or she is sworn into office. In 1990 the former Mayor of Harare, the late Tony Gara, notoriously described President Mugabe, as “God’s other son”.
Last week the MP for Highfield West, Psychology Maziwisa, claimed Zanu-PF has created about 3 million casual jobs since elections in 2013. The above mentioned policymakers represent the standard of MPs people vote into office. The people they look up to for economic and national development. This explains why certain people remain hesitant to validate a flawed electoral and political process.
Parliament is mandated to make laws and hold the government to account for its policies, actions and spending.
Nonetheless, how well have numerous parliamentary portfolio committees exercised oversight over public sector companies and stopped dishonest managers from bankrupting parastatals and causing massive unemployment and poverty?
Let us see: debt-ridden Air Zimbabwe has retrenched half of its workforce. Net-One is burdened with legacy debts and remains highly unprofitable for now. The GMB is riddled with corruption and perplexing business practices. The NRZ is flat broke. Zimpapers is the unhealthiest possible scenario of sycophantic and unproductive journalism on earth; and the ZBC operates as an expensive loss-making propaganda machine.
Nevertheless, the said highly remunerated members of parliament are continuously caught napping and missing in action when the nation is bulging at the seams with corporate malfeasance in the civil sector.
When last did Zimbabwe witness a member of parliament speak truth to power: last week, last month or last century? Dzikamayi Mavhaire famously said “Mugabe must go” in a parliamentary debate in 1998 and Zanu-PF promptly suspended him.
Former Finance Minister, Dr Simba Makoni went a step further and challenged President Mugabe for the presidency of Zanu-PF. But he got expelled for his democratic aspirations.
Then, Zanu-PF spokesman,Nathan Shamuyarira, a close confidant of President Mugabe, told a news conference: “The rules are very clear that anyone who tries to challenge an elected candidate of the party stands expelled. In the case of Simba Makoni … he stands expelled.”
Comparably, when last did a Zanu-PF Member of Parliament call for the resignation or prosecution of a powerful cabinet minister over allegations of corruption? When last did a Zanu-PF MP condemn police brutality and make calls for a thorough investigation into Commissioner Augustine Chihuri and the ZRP?
And have you ever heard of an MP who quit his or her seat in Parliament in protest over the enactment of bad and unprincipled legislation? Life could be so different now had Parliament not passed laws that restrict the freedom of expression, the right to protest and the inalienable right to vote in Zimbabwe and the diaspora.
Problematic laws like the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Public Order and Security Act, and General Laws Amendment Act would not have passed if legislators had put the interests of Zimbabwe first and well ahead of very narrow interests.
So while many people will castigate, dismiss and ridicule Advocate Fadzayi Mahere and accurately wonder what she will do in the house, do remember that the hundreds of MDC-T legislators both in the lower and upper house normally speak in one voice all the time.
Should Mahere become the MP for Mount Pleasant, she can use parliamentary structures and laws to apply powerful and strategic pressure wherever and whenever it is required.
Should Mahere propose new legislation that will tackle corporate sleaze at parastatals: Zimbabwe will rally behind her?
If Mahere can recommend the privatisation of state-owned companies like Air Zimbabwe, then she will make a big impact.
If Advocate Mahere can promote clean governance through Parliament – her job will be half done.
If Advocate Mahere can call for strict implementation of term limits for the police and army chiefs, the security sector can be revamped for the benefit of the entire nation.
Without an ego-maniacal party leader to please and a captured Chief Whip to answer to, Advocate Mahere can work diligently and make considerable progress.
Parliament no longer has an MP in the mould of former Makokoba MP, the late Sydney Malunga – a left-wing firebrand who spoke his mind and called out corrupt leaders and civil incompetence in Parliament on a regular basis.
Deplorably, dogmatic MPs simply toe the party line in meek manner all the time for fear that public dissent will lead to disciplinary actions and expulsions and losses in public standing and lucrative salaries and benefits.
So Zimbabwe can plausibly do with a third and apolitical voice in Parliament – an option not bound to party-political goals.
With all the problems Zimbabwe has at the moment whoever can bring fresh ideas and unearth renewed enthusiasm for the political process among young voters and act purposefully and unselfishly from beyond the boundaries of the two big parties – should certainly be appreciated because the country now needs MPs who serve just one principal constituency-the people of Zimbabwe.
The writer can be contacted on: email@example.com