HARARE – President Robert Mugabe is not happy with ministers who have not been attending the National Assembly to answer and clarify their policies during the weekly crucial Question and Answer sessions.
During this period, MPs, on behalf of their constituents raise questions against relevant ministers who, most of the times are either attending business somewhere or delegate their deputies.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa told the National Assembly on Wednesday that Mugabe had directed ministers to field questions from legislators.
“It is true that the president felt unhappy that the absence of ministers in the House prompted the Speaker to write to the president, which rarely happens.
“So, he was appealing to members of Cabinet that they should attend Parliament. Where they do not do so, most of our colleagues have deputy ministers; they should have deputy ministers coming to attend on their behalf,” Mnangagwa said, adding there were liaison officers who should be able to inform the House if the minister is engaged.
“So, the president did actually appeal and informed us that we have a duty first to our representatives as we represent constituencies to Parliament and we have a duty in Parliament, a constitutional duty to be present and to explain the mandates which they perform as ministers.
“I thought I would share with you … Speaker, that the president indeed probed us to attend Parliament,” he added.
In the National Assembly, Wednesdays are devoted to questions for ministers to answer; while the Senate holds its question time on Thursdays.
On the set days, there is a session for questions with notice and another for questions without notice.
In the questions without notice session, MPs have the opportunity to pose impromptu questions to Cabinet ministers on issues affecting the nation with each question directed at a particular minister depending on their portfolio.
In the questions with notice session, written questions are forwarded to the ministers prior to the sitting and they are read in the august House for responses.
Yet, in a worrying trend, some Cabinet ministers have decided to leave the entire job to their deputies who have a difficult time when hit by a barrage of questions from the legislators.
Mnangagwa also said as head of government business in Parliament, he was also able to answer all questions.
“I can assure you that ministers are fully aware that on Wednesday like today, they should be here. This is why I am wearing this, I have just been released to come to Parliament and the rest of my colleagues are at this function of the executive.
“If they are free and whenever they are free, they will do their best to come to Parliament. In most cases you at least have four to six ministers who will come to Parliament and they are adequate to deal with issues of policy covering the spectrum of government,” said Mnangagwa.
“When I am present here, in fact, let the members ask any question, I have the capacity and capability to deal with issues relating to the policies of government which are articulated in cabinet.
“Question time is based on the principle that MPs would want to know government policies on various issues of concern and a policy is not a line ministry aspect alone,” added Mnangagwa.
Successive speakers have raised concern over the issue but that seems to be falling on deaf ears.
Over and above complaining to Mugabe about absconding ministers, Mudenda has also threatened to slash sitting allowances for absconding ministers and the situation seemed to have improved briefly before the trend of absences resumed again.