MPs desert xenophobia debate

HARARE - Parliament had to be adjourned last week during a crucial debate on xenophobic attacks on Zimbabweans in South Africa because Members of Parliament, who were present, could not constitute a quorum for the debate to proceed, the Daily News on Sunday can report.

On March 1, Mabvuku-Tafara MDC MP James Maridadi presented before Parliament his urgent motion on xenophobic attacks in South Africa, after televised images of armed gangs attacking immigrants and looting foreign-owned stores in Pretoria were beamed.

Just after question time, Maridadi tabled the motion, ably seconded by Dexter Nduna of Zanu PF, and made a passionate and eloquent speech describing as “unfortunate and regrettable” Pretoria’s failure to protect foreigners.

A thoughtful contribution from Binga North MDC MP Prince Dubeko Sibanda, focussing on the problem posed to South Africa by the presence of an abnormal number of economic refugees from Zimbabwe, was cut short by a sudden automatic adjournment when just after 6pm a quorum could not be raised.

An MP drew attention to the lack of a quorum, and the bells were rung; then Speaker Jacob Mudenda counted the members present in the National Assembly and realised a quorum was not present, leading to the adjournment till the next sitting day.

This was just the latest time that debate had to be aborted for want of quorum.

Parliament needs a quorum of at least 70 of the country’s 210 legislators to be present.

The incident has revived long-standing concerns about the lackadaisical attitude of MPs towards the business of the august House.

Parliamentary sessions have been characterised by bunking ministers and empty seats as most MPs prefer to do their private businesses when the house would be in session.

Mudenda has written to President Robert Mugabe complaining about the ongoing poor attendance record of Cabinet ministers, which opposition parties said was “disrespectful to the House”.

Ministers and their deputies are expected to answer questions from legislators on Wednesdays in the National Assembly and Thursdays in the Senate.

Some of the lawmakers are in the habit of pitching up just to register their availability before hastily retreating from Parliament building to conduct their personal business.

The list of legitimate reasons for failing to attend includes standard ones such as holiday, illness or death of relatives, and more specific ones such as “carrying out party business,” and various insurmountable circumstances, such as delayed flights, traffic jams and home emergencies.

As a result, Parliament has not been effective in the discharge of its legislative and oversight functions, with critics accusing the assembly for having been reduced by the executive branch of the State to a mere rubber stamp.

Parliament adjourned debate as South Africans looted at least 20 small businesses believed to belong to immigrants in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria. Nobody was killed in the violence, according to South African police.

South African police have declined to state if the Pretoria attackers were specifically targeting foreigners.

But South Africa’s Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba has admitted there had been renewed violence against foreigners this year.

“Unfortunately, xenophobic violence is not new in South Africa,” Gigaba said.

The violence against immigrants has flared against a background of near-record unemployment, with foreigners being accused of taking jobs from locals and getting involved in crime.

Comments (1)

So if they could not constitute a quorum they need to try again and not evade the issue that is what they are supposed to be there for for the ordinary people

Ordinary Povo - 13 March 2017

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