HARARE - Zanu PF has confirmed that it has directed its legislators to desist from grilling Cabinet ministers in Parliament on issues — asking them instead to paper over differences and system shortcomings.
The party’s chief whip, Lovemore Matuke, told the Daily News yesterday that the controversial directive had come “from the top”, and that the former liberation movement would not brook any disobedience of the order.
This comes after the party’s secretary for administration, Ignatius Chombo, told a recent Mashonaland West provincial co-ordinating committee that Chegutu West MP, Dexter Nduna, and his Makonde counterpart, Kindness Paradza, were typical examples of Zanu PF MPs who had a tendency to rock the boat unnecessarily.
Chombo claimed that the two legislators were always “too excited”, tending to “unsettle” party bigwigs in Parliament, including under-fire Mines minister Walter Chidakwa who was recently taken to task over $15 billion worth of diamonds that President Robert Mugabe said were stolen from Chiadzwa.
Paradza — who chairs the parliamentary portfolio committee on Foreign Affairs — recently, and rightly so, grilled the Foreign ministry about the sorry state of the country’s foreign missions, where a quarter of them face eviction over unpaid rentals, with salary arrears for staff averaging 12 months.
“The message should be taken seriously by all MPs because he (Chombo) is a very senior official and he communicates what he will have gotten from his superiors.
“The reason why we are chief whips is so that we control debate in Parliament in line with the party’s policies. We therefore will not accept a situation where one MP asks one minister over 20 questions during one sitting.
“That means other MPs will be denied the chance to also ask questions. Moreover, we expect our MPs to follow the party’s policies, and so they need to be whipped into line,” Matuke warned.
Pressed to say if it was not Speaker Jacob Mudenda who had the responsibility to give all MPs chances to make contributions, Matuke accused Nduna in particular of seeking to “steal the limelight” from other MPs by “having the whole Order Paper with only his questions, coming one after the other”.
Parliamentary question time has become one of the most-watched events on State television, with many people saying they like the rough and tumble of the debates.
Some people have even called for the broadcasts to be moved from midday on Wednesdays, to a prime-time TV slot, to increase the potential viewing audience.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, a Zanu PF MP who requested anonymity, fearing reprisals, said: “An MP’s job is to represent their constituent and hold the government to account. People in the party and in Parliament have completely lost sight of that”.