HARARE - Questions on the House of Assembly’s Order Paper had to be deferred on Wednesday after several Cabinet ministers bunked the question and answer session.
The ministers were said to be tied up at the explosive politburo meeting preceded by mass protests outside the Zanu PF headquarters.
The move sparked an outcry from opposition backbenchers who slammed their Zanu PF counterparts of not taking Parliament business seriously.
When the session opened, only Agriculture minister Joseph Made and Abednigo Ncube, the minister of Rural Development and Preservation of National Cultural Heritage, were in attendance, prompting Musikavanhu MDC MP Prosper Mutseyami to raise a point of order with the acting Speaker Mabel Chinomona expressing concern over the absence of ministers.
“You would see that on the front bench we only have one Cabinet minister,” Mutseyami said.
“I think it is of paramount importance to look into that seriously because last week, we were assured outright, left, right and centre by the speaker that on today’s programme, all the ministers will be available but alas, today we only have two honourable ministers, Joseph Made and the other. I think it is best for us to have a response to the nation which is in sincerity to the cause of Parliament.”
Curiously, Mudenda, who reprimanded legislators this week for absconding, was also conspicuously absent.
In addition to bunking Parliament, MPs are increasingly debating with less respect and diplomacy than they did previously.
Mutseyami said national business was now being stalled at the expense of a political party’s politburo meeting.
Zanu PF chief whip Lovemore Matuke claimed deputy ministers can step in and take care of business on behalf of ministers because they had minutes and all reports from Cabinet.
“I wanted to raise the issue that deputy ministers are also commissioned ministers,” he said.
But Mutseyami disputed Matuke’s averments, stating that deputy ministers did not sit in Cabinet.
“For deputy ministers to come here and tell us that they are the same as Cabinet ministers - that is not correct,” he said.
Acting deputy speaker Chinomona later asked MPs to put questions in writing to deputy ministers.
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu yesterday told the Daily News that Zanu PF was treating Parliament with contempt.
“The legislative arm of the State has never been taken seriously by President Robert Mugabe,” he said. “According to the Zanu PF political template, all other organs of the State are subordinate to the party in general and to the party leader in particular.
“We need a complete paradigm shift regarding the way in which our parliamentary system operates. As of now, Parliament is just but a very weak and thoroughly trivialised and underfunded appendage of the State bureaucracy.’’
Most ministers just choose to show up occasionally, fill out the form and sit on their gadgets throughout the meeting before rushing off to their plush offices – even before the Speaker closes the meeting.