HARARE – Questions on the House of Assembly’s Order Paper had to be deferred last week after several Cabinet ministers bunked the Question and Answer session, stirring opposition fury.
The ministers were said to be tied up at the explosive politburo meeting to decide the fate of Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere at the Zanu PF headquarters on Wednesday.
The move sparked an outcry from opposition backbenchers who slammed their Zanu PF counterparts of not taking Parliament business seriously.
MDC chief whip Innocent Gonese raised a point of order with the acting Speaker Reuben Marumahoko expressing concern over the absence of ministers.
Section 107 (2) of the Constitution requires every vice-president, minister and deputy minister to attend Parliament and parliamentary committees in order to answer questions concerning matters for which they are collectively or individually responsible.
Gonese said “all political parties, especially those from where the ministers are coming, to schedule their meetings on a day which is not a Wednesday.”
“In order to indicate our displeasure at their conduct, we must do something as this august House and I will actually ask all members that perhaps we may have to resort to a situation where we defer Question Time so as to indicate our displeasure at this course of conduct,” Gonese said.
Apparently referring to Zanu PF which failed to conclusively deal with their issues during another politburo meeting a fortnight ago, Gonese also proposed that parties should make use of weekends to transact their business.
“We want to place it on record that this is not acceptable and again we have a scenario where the Vice President (Emmerson Mnangagwa) is not here who is leader of the House. He has not designated any other minister to be the acting yet the person who sometimes acts (Patrick) Chinamasa is also not available because he is attending the same politburo meeting.”
Gonese was backed by MDC proportional representation MP Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga who said Parliament needed to take a position “to indicate that we are actually quite unhappy because when we continuously go on with the programme, we legitimise this kind of behaviour.”
“So, we need to take a stand where we say if they are not willing to come and unfortunately those that have come would have to also be taken on the basis of others, we just do not ask questions,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga said.
“We have got a whole agenda that is there; we have motions. We can defer question time and do it only when they are here.”
Marumahoko took note of the complaints.
“I was expecting ministers even those who are not in the politburo but I think as a House, someone was suggesting a proposal and we can agree on such a proposal,” Marumahoko said.
MDC vice president Nelson Chamisa had earlier suggested that clerk of Parliament Kennedy Chokuda compile the names of the ministers who did not send apologies “so that they can be charged and then we send the ruling to the president because they are not doing their work properly.”
“We can confiscate their cars or office keys to show our disgruntlement,” Chamisa said.
“I think we should come up with a resolution as Parliament that those ministers who do not send their apologies we should charge them with contempt of Parliament for looking down upon this House.”
The Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act gives the legislature power to impose not only fines for contempt of Parliament, but also imprisonment for up to two years in default of payment of the fines.