Re-engineering our politics through effective utilisation of Parliament
I WATCHED the ‘The Gods must be crazy’ and I disliked the Government of Botswana for allowing such a movie to be shot in their country. The movie, a comedy, was a racial assault on people of other races. But today I look at the effectiveness of our Zimbabwe Parliament and I can’t help but remember that unpleasant ‘humourless’ movie. Parliament is such a powerful institution but not if it has incompetent MPs. You wonder; are the Gods crazy to give machines-guns to monkeys which do not know or aspire to know how to use the machines guns.
Perhaps this is too harsh and somewhat negative. But sometimes you have to ‘bitch-slap’ the men to wake him up, from a drunken slumber. How did the first shoe-salesman sell shoes to shoeless villagers who had never seen a shoe before? It must have been a challenge. Zimbabwe needs to understand the potency of Parliament – the shoe, and use it effectively. Responses I received to my first article have made me strongly believe that Zimbabweans are not well-informed about the numerous capabilities of parliament. I will attempt to demonstrate what Parliament can achieve or be used for.
First things first: Mugabe is inferior to Parliament!
The executive arm of our constitutional democracy, which is under the President, can be fired by Parliament. But most of you who are political junkies might know that already. Did the media not tell us that ZANU wants to fire Mai Mujuru-aligned MPs because it feared those MPs, together with MDC MPs, were intending to use Parliament to vote Mugabe into retirement? The Judiciary has to apply the wishes of Parliament, including constitutional changes supported by two thirds majority in Parliament.
Parliament is sovereign, way above the executive and the judiciary. Parliament can even fire judges. Just recently, the most senior Justice in the country – Godfrey Chidyausiku, most politely and diplomatically ‘told off’ Mugabe for ‘dictating how cases must be judged’. Indeed, Mugabe – the executive – is inferior to the Judiciary. On the other hand the Chidyausikus – the Judiciary – can never reprimand Parliament other than to make Judgments on whether parliamentary procedures and voting standards were followed.Advertisement
If Parliament creates a ‘Bash and Hang Chidyausiku Act’, having followed the right procedures and had the majority MPs support the Act, Chidyausiku -the Judiciary – will have no legal option but submit to the Act. Parliament is the most powerful institution in our constitutional democracy.
Cashberts scenarios and Chinamasa’s weird ignorance of the potency of Parliament
Was the nation not upset when one man paid himself over US$100,000 a month and the workers in the company he was the CEO of went without wages for months? CEOs of way bigger companies in the West were and are still not earning as much as our Cashberts earned. But that was not the worst of it. The medical society where Cashbert was CEO failed to pay medical service providers and pharmacies; members of the medical society could not receive the service and products they paid for. And I see a glaring proximity – cause and effect connection – between that failure and the filling up of cemeteries in our cities and anthills in our rural areas with graves; members of that medical society died whilst Cashbert was and is living large. I could say the man accomplished his mini-and-silent ‘Gukurahundi!’
Chinamasa tell us that there are laws that make it impossible to convict Cashbert of any crime? Really? Seriously? Shuwa, Shuwa!? Diko ere? The man himself – Cashbert – gave Chinamasa and Parliament his middle finger; he threatened to sue. Chinamasa could have approached Parliament asking for the law to be tweaked, to be developed to remove any hurdles to the successful prosecution of Cashbert!
Parliament once sent to the goals an MDC MP, Bennett, for being violent in Parliament. The Courts could not help the MP because Parliament is sovereign and it is so for as long as Parliament procedures are followed and the right level of MP support is achieved. With the Cashberts, both sides of the Parliament divide were angry at the salary-gate scandal. As such it would have been easy to adjust the law to enable the successful prosecution of Cashberts; and that can still be done. I repeat, it can still be done, that is, remove legal hurdles and prosecute the Cashberts. Parliament is that powerful!
Whilst I do not believe in criminalising past actions that were, when committed, not a criminal offence then; there must be exceptions. When your actions have resulted in a ‘mini- and silent-Gukurahundi’ and are glaringly immoral and unethical, a retrospective application of the law is justified. Western Parliaments have done so to enable criminal prosecutions and civil litigations. Our Parliament should wake up and give Cashbert its middle finger. This is how powerful Parliament is. MDC PMs were upset that people did not take to the streets, protesting salary-gate scandal but I ask, why did the MDC MPs not create a Bill to enable the prosecution of Cashberts? Chinotimba and his ZANU MPs would most likely have supported such a Bill.
A so-called ‘clueful’ that has not shown the ‘clueless’ its clues
The rhetoric by Biti, Gutu, Chamisa and Ncube – all of them lawyers – is that Zanu PF has no clue on how to get the economy back to its feet. Elections are 3 years away and Zimbabwe knows that ‘clueless’ Zanu PF has ZIMASSET but they do not know what ‘clueful’ MDCs have. You would expect the ‘clueful’ MDCs to be proposing Bill after Bill in Parliament, strongly communicating to Zimbabwe the kind of things MDC stands for. That is one of the purposes of parliament, a campaign platform on which you show details of your policies in the form of Bills.
Yes, if you are in the opposition, meaning you have less seats, your Bills may not go to select committee stages but they will be debated in Parliament. But at the same time Zanu PF would have to be careful to block MDC proposed Bills from going to the select committee stage. Remember, debates in parliament must now be recorded and can be broadcast to citizen-voters. Through Bills and debates on those Bills, MPs can strategically use Parliament to show Zimbabwe who they are. Parliament is a super-campaign platform.
So many ills in Zimbabwe and yet so little is done in Parliament
Our country is laden with many ills; administrative, business and social. There are so many areas to improve. Zimbabwe is rich goldfield for a Party in opposition to propose Bills that can change lives.
Here are examples
MDC (or any other party) can create a Bill that requires residential house construction and major building construction projects to be completed in 30 days. The Bill would detail the system and procedures that would enable such a fast decision-making process. Yes, it is possible to approve such projects in 7 days but you have to be a thinker -a lateral one. I know how. Would Zanu PF block such a Bill? Not likely, if the ruling party used its majority to block good Bills, the voter wills see them as crazy anti-development buffoons. Would some people think MDC can be trusted to manage the country if they propose such Bills? Oh hell yeah!
Zimbabwe is the worst country in Africa in terms of logistics and transport efficiency, especially for cargo that is being transported overseas. The paperwork is massive; it is stuck 1940s red tape. Can MDC propose a Bill with, of course, the system and procedures that will manage this problem? Yes, they can. I know how the situation can be improved.
As a follow up to salary-gate scandal, MDC could have proposed a new reporting system for parastatals. I would have demanded financial accounting and audit reports every 3 months and as part of the report, I would have demanded names and salaries and benefits of everyone above middle management; A Parastatal Performance Report Bill. Such reports would be put online and in the print media. What Mugabe’s Cabinet came up with to prevent a repeat of salary-gate scandal and incompetence in Parastatal management is totally useless, I must say.
So often, workers go for months and even years without pay. You would think a so-called ‘Workers Party’ would have aggressively proposed a Bill which demands that the lowest earning workers be the first ones to get paid where the company is failing to pay all workers. Propose laws to criminalise those who pay management before the low level workers are paid; demand monthly financial accounts and that the business, strategic and tactical plans of such companies be presented to the ministry of labour and economic planning. And create laws for a tripartite-management of such companies; that is decision making to be shared by workers, government and the employers. This kind of decision-making is common in Western Europe.
Hunhu/Ubuntu is rooting; young men impregnate girls and just run or do nothing. Why not create laws that would criminalise young men who make no effort to meet traditional expectations; that is meet the girl’s family and arrange to pay ‘damages or roora’; lock such men in jail over the weekend with hard labour until they do what our culture demands; jail woman who falsely accuse men of impregnating them; jail or debt control/liquidate men who take a second wife when roora for the first wife is not yet completed; have our courts enforce reasonable roora charges (and never the Masvingo roora rates!).
Zimbabwe is a ‘Christian state’ and the people would like such laws and so will the traditional leadership. HIV rates will drop too because of such laws. These are the sort of battles of ideas that should take place in Parliament backed by well thought Bills. Of course such a Bill is not likely to come from MDC-T given their President is such a ‘sexual deviant’; he was having random and unprotected sex and that’s public knowledge and young men and woman are following suit. I always wonder how MDC executive members convince their children that Tsvangirai is a good person and a good role model.
I can go on and on, over the social and economic issues bedevilling our country; and Parliament, especially the opposition, can through Bills suggest the way forward. The ‘clueful’ can, through Parliament, show the ‘clueless’ how to run the country. But of course this requires political parties whose politics are not politics of obtaining power on the wings of people’s suffering and going on to actually cause that suffering by inviting economic sanctions and asking foreign governments to isolate Zimbabwe economically.
Zimbabwe Parliament; indolent Parliament
In western parliaments, MPs compete to have their Bills read and debated, but in Zimbabwe with so many ills, there is absolutely none of that; and that is not Mugabe’s fault. We are ignorant of the potency of Parliament and have gotten used to blaming the head of the executive and, in the process, Parliament has gotten away with serious dereliction of duty.
Chamisa: Evidence of a useless university law School
He is young, he is an MP. You would expect him to create intelligent fireworks in Parliament other than mourning about ministers not coming to Parliament to answer questions. When ministers refuse to come to Parliament, it strongly suggests a contemptuous executive and/or a weak and dodgy President; in that situation Chamisa must go on to introduce Bills. If they refuse to answer questions, say ‘fine’ and then match on to dominate them by introducing well thought out Bills.
Ideas rule and an MP can rule the country from the back benches of Parliament. But Look at Chamisa’s teachers, one Mr Madhuku and one Prof Ncube. These men have not seen anything wrong with our Parliament’s performance, and that is sad. Just recently, Madhuku was asked to give a presentation on the role of elected representatives. His presentation made me want to pull down the Zimbabwe flag which is on my desk. Madhuku asserted that elected representatives were powerless and that only Mugabe had power! His emphasis was that we should not expect much from elected representatives; only Mugabe must be expected to change Zimbabwe.
I assert here, and most strongly so, that elected representatives have power and we must expect a lot more from them. Madhuku’s attitude and school of thought is seriously dangerous to the efficiency of democracy. As a person, it is clear to me he is no leadership material; he is definitely not a transformational leader. He is, supposedly, our expect on constitutional law; God have mercy on Zimbabwe! Madhuku is the man who taught the rest of the lawyers in Parliament and these lawyers have not been utilising Parliament effectively.
A challenge to Madhuku
Following Madhuku’s speech, the Mayor of Harare went public, washing his hands off from resolving Harare City’s problems. We are brilliant students of bad advice! I challenge Madhuku to an informed debate; I dare him to write a thesis which will be peer-reviewed, in which he repeats his speech. He is not likely to repeat his views as he might lose his professorship for gross incompetence. A Back-Bencher, with ideas, can rule Zimbabwe from the back benches of Parliament. But it seems Madhuku does not think so, because to him only Mugabe -the executive – can.
Performance gaps and training and education need analysis: Zimbabwe Institute of People Management (ZIMP)
Every human resources professional and student worth their salt is equipped with the skill and knowledge to determine the cause of a gap in performance. I challenge the professional institute to volunteer its services and assess whether the Parliament of Zimbabwe is performing well or not; if not, establish the cause.
But I am not excited by the problem solving competence of the majority of African ‘intellectuals’, so I wouldn’t hold my breath. They love to rush to blame Mugabe and politics where they could help by other means. If ZIMP was to do its job right, they would conclude that our Parliament is performing way below capacity; the cause of it being the ignorance of MPs and lack of support for MPs.
Cut my tongue if all I do is orate problems and never offer solutions. I won’t be like the ZUNDE party guy. I loathe politicians who orate about problems and never offer solutions. An effective solution is providing support in the form of skilled and educated advisors to each and every MP. Give them at least 4 advisors; an economist to work on national issues and also work with their Constituency – business interests and economic matters; a lawyer or legal adviser; a social expert and PR/PA as I suggested in my first article.
Western MPs are generally way more educated and have superior world knowledge than our MPs but they are supported. Ever wonder why we not catching up with the west? The quality of Parliament is crucial to our constitutional democracy and economic development. If we do not support our MPs, we are indeed shooting ourselves in the foot. You can replace Mugabe, and replace his replacement but without a Parliament that performs as expected, not much will change.
What is the name of a person who does not know that he does not know?
Sex, like driving, is such that anyone who has not had better, taught better or never experienced better, always thinks that he or she is good or the best at it. Take a look at the dynamism of Parliaments in Europe and North America and you can see why their economies are ahead. Asian economies are doing better than Africa and a key difference is the quality of MPs in Parliaments and not colonialism.
The executive is not as powerful as parliament. For those who blame Mugabe for 70% of the ills the country is facing, I now ask; if we had an effective Parliament where MPs compete to produce economically effective Bills, do you think we would be where we are today? No President can afford to ignore good Bills. Mugabe has never been presented with such Bills. The Opposition must take advantage of Parliament to show how an alternative government would run the country. Zanu PF MPs too must, through Bills proposals, show they have clues on how to manage the economy for the better.
Let’s not be like primitive violent savages
I hear MPs. in and outside of Parliament speeches, agitate for street protests against old school Zanu PF. But ‘Kutonga’ means creating laws and systems of governing the country. To these MPs, protests must lead the process of Kutonga; they do not think that Parliament can lead the process of Kutonga. Such politics is the politics of primitive savages who do not understand, respect the process, system and values of democracy. The MDCs should lead in Kutonga by presenting well-thought Bills. Bills that are of the people and resonate with the people such that Zanu cannot afford to reject them. If Zanu PF does so, the people ‘themselves alone’ will go the streets without MDC asking them to protest. That is Kutonga!
The Parliament Monitoring Trust Zimbabwe
I believe they have good intentions and I support their efforts. More can be done that is decisive. Watch this space! We need to re-engineer our politics. Our Constitution is very good, not perfect; it is Parliament that is underperforming! Icho!
Patriotic Jukwa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is a G40 Zanu PF generation. He thinks that Mugabe has been a warrior and that he won elections in 2013. Nonetheless he respectfully requests Mugabe should retire sooner rather than later because he has done his best and that the current needs of Zimbabwe require new energy at the helm.