Bunking damages Parly credibility

HARARE - Cabinet ministers bunking  Senate’s question and answer time are weakening the chairman of Cabinet, President Robert Mugabe, exposing him to castigation, even where he is indirectly responsible.

Senate president Edna Madzongwe last week complained that ministers were bunking Parliament business and that only one question on the Order Paper was dealt with out of 24 as ministers absconded.

Madzongwe asked Zanu PF chief whip Senator Tambudzani Mohadi to warn ministers against their actions.

“They need to understand that if they have work on our Order Paper and they do not show up, they are retarding the work of the Senate,” she said.

The only minister who was present during the session was Environment, Water and Climate minister Savior Kasukuwere.

Last year, Madzongwe appealed to then Justice minister Emmerson Mnangagwa to warn Cabinet ministers against bunking parliamentary question-and-answer sessions after only two ministers and a deputy turned up to respond to questions in the Upper House.

These included senior minister of State in the President’s Office Simon Khaya Moyo, Home Affairs deputy minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and Mnangagwa himself, who was leader of government business in Parliament.

In the 2013 Parliament, ministers dodged the question-and-answer sessions resulting in questions remaining unanswered.

While other social and political commentators believe Cabinet ministers are staying away from the sessions because they have no answers to current economic woes, some believe they are absconding because they feel the current senators are shallow.

Takura Zhangazha said the bunking by Cabinet ministers indicates that the Executive arm of government does not take its own creation, the Senate to be an important policy review arena.

“It also indicates dysfunctionality of the general relationship between Parliament and government in that the latter will only engage the former when it is convenient.

“This seriously undermines the oversight role of Parliament and brings to the fore party politics and loyalty seeing as it is least likely any form of censure will be meted out to absconding ministers,” said Zhangazha.

Social and political commentator Rejoice Ngwenya said Zanu PF ministers are not appointed on the basis of credibility, but cronyism.

“And moreover, even if they are constituency-based ministers, the electoral process is so discredited as to be contaminated, so it does not get the proverbial “best man” on the job. Edna Madzongwe should know better,” said Ngwenya.

He said Zanu PF parliamentary and ministerial activists only have interest in presidential rallies, celebrations, politburo and central committee meetings, because they have to pay homage to Mugabe.

“To them, ministerial business is an extension of business opportunism, thus they would rather be chasing money deals than government business.

“Question and answer sessions are means of determining the knowledge and solution levels that ministers have to Zimbabwe’s problems. As it is, perhaps for a few like Jonathan Moyo, Zanu PF ministerial cronies have no clue how to get Zimbabwe working. The only thing they can do is abscond,” said Ngwenya.

He added that this means they have no respect for Parliament, no respect for tax payers and they are contemptuous of not only the one who appointed them, but of voters as well.

“When we said last year that Mugabe has appointed a dead-wood Cabinet, this is exactly what we meant,” said Ngwenya.

Playwright Cont Mhlanga said he understands and supports the ministers if they bunk parliamentary and or senate business from time to time and find something more useful to do with their precious time.

“It is not about the calibre of ministers we have but about the calibre of parliamentarians and senators that we have. What is the point for a minister to go and sit with honorables who will debate issues from a shallow perspective that does not even fit to the national agenda or national objectives?

“Most of them just talk of issues long after they have been raised by the media as if they are not
national leaders but college students.

“How can MPs and Senators have their debate agenda set by the media? It is the media that should follow their debate agenda,” said the outspoken playwright.

He said “we read about executive salaries this week and two weeks later some shallow MP raises the same in Parliament?”

“What level of leaders are these? Our MPs and Senators need to up their leadership role and stop being povo “people of various opinions” like us!”

Political activist Tabani Moyo said it seems we have a very weak Parliament which in a way seems to be subservient to the Executive. The ministers feel they will be wasting time attending Parliament.


“This has happened time over time, but the Parliament itself has not shown its capacity to sanction such wayward behaviour by the ministers. So there is need for Parliament to exercise its sanctioning powers on one of the ministers for a rude awakening call to duty,” added Moyo.

Social commentator Precious Shumba said the problem was not about the calibre of ministers we have in government.

“The issue that needs urgent attention in this matter is the culture that has taken root among political leaders, a culture of wanting to be above the law, a culture of being bosses, whose behaviour is unregulated by systems and processes.” said Shumba.

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