By Staff Reporter
MEMBERS of Parliament (MP) have expressed outrage at the repeated failure to attend House of Assembly business by some cabinet ministers and accused the Executive branch of government of disrespecting the Legislature.
During last Wednesday’s Question Time, Speaker Jacob Mudenda read out a list of more than a dozen cabinet and deputy ministers who had apologised for failing to attend the session.
Most had chosen to attend the ground-breaking ceremony for the $500m cyber city project in the capital by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Opposition Mutare Central MP Innocent Gonese said the absences were unacceptable, citing regular no-shows by the likes of Vice President Constantino Chiwenga who is also the minister of health, as well as foreign affairs minister Frederick Shava and local government counterpart July Moyo.
Said Gonese to the Speaker; “On a point of clarification! My point of clarification emanates from the long list of apologies which you have set out.
“Is there any limit to the number of times that one seeks leave of absence because we have seen for example, the Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Mines, Hon. Minister July Moyo are never here.”
He added; “So, if we have a scenario where week in, week out, ad infinitum, certain Hon. Ministers are always seeking leave of absence, will they ever be in attendance?
“My belief is that when you are seeking leave of absence, it should be for a specific day when one has a specific commitment, not a situation where you are perpetually on leave of absence.”
Particularly disconcerting for MPs however, has been the absence from the house of local government minister Moyo.
The minister’s presence in Parliament has been demanded over two controversial and allegedly corrupt deals; the Harare’s Pomona waste-to-energy contract as well as a government’s decision to acquire fire-fighting vehicles from Belarus for local authorities.
Moyo has instead dispatched his deputy Marian Moyo whose responses failed to satisfy MPs.
Opposition CCC legislator for Pumula, Sichelesile Mahlangu, took pity on the under-fire Chombo saying, “it may sound as if we are attacking the Hon. Deputy Minister. I think it is high time Hon. Minister July Moyo should come and answer.
“I am a woman, it is unfair for me to attack another woman, but I have no choice because July Moyo is always away.”
Independent Norton MP, a regular critic of Moyo, said of the minister’s absence; “Hon. July Moyo is not here to respond but is busy writing letters to the local authorities so that money comes out.
“His job now is to write letters wanting money. How can a Minister be a debt collector? He is not here to answer issues of all the deals that he is doing.
“He must come and answer on why he is writing letters when he is not a debt collector.”
Mliswa accused absentee ministers and their deputies of disrespecting Parliament.
“There are a number of Deputy Ministers who seem to have been taught bad habits by their superiors in not coming to Parliament and not respecting this institution,” he said.
“We keep saying this and I think it is important that those who are here share with their peers at the end of the day that they must respect this institution. We respect the Executive and the Judiciary but we seem not to be respected.
“I do not know at what point they will be cultured, some of them are arrogant, stubborn, and incompetent and do not have the courtesy to send in an apology.”
Addressing the concerns last Wednesday, Speaker Mudenda said; “The ball is in your court because the Standing Orders do not give any limit at all.
“I think once I have even said the Standing Orders do not demand even the reason for absent. The ball is in your court Members of this august House to amend the Standing Orders accordingly so that your concerns can be satisfied.”