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Occasional visitors? Attendance in the 7th Parliament of Zimbabwe
Rumbidzai Dube, Senior Researcher, Research & Advocacy Unit (RAU)
November 07, 2013

This is Part 1 of 3 of RAU's analysis of the 7th Parliament of Zimbabwe

Read Part 2 - Parliamentary performance and gender
Read Part 3 - What happened in Parliament? An analysis of the participation of MPs 2012 to 2013

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Executive Summary

After its five year term, the Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe - which existed during the life of the Global Political Agreement - was widely believed to have been ineffective. This motivated a need to analyse whether the Seventh Parliament was in reality an idle body or it performed its role to the best of its ability, under the circumstances. This paper is first of a three part series of an intensive analysis of the performance of the Seventh Parliament in its last year of tenure from June 2012 until June 2013. Key indicators including attendance of parliamentary sittings, participation in ordinary plenary sessions, participation in portfolio committees, and participation in question and answer sessions were used in the assessment of the Seventh Parliament. This is the first of the three reports and is concerned only with attendance of Parliamentarians in the House of Assembly and Senate.

Some findings were not pretty. Among other things, it emerged that:

i. During the period under study, the Parliament passed 13 bills;

ii. Juxtaposition of the average cost of maintaining an MP ($1,115 per sitting), versus time spent in Parliament (2 hours and 30 minutes per sitting for the House of Assembly and 1 hour and 14 minute per sitting for Senate) and attendance (on average 31/48 for House of Assembly and 17/50 for Senate) in general is at great odds;

iii. Attendance in the House of Assembly is relatively good while in the Senate the patterns of non-attendance are shocking. Out of a possible 48 sittings in the House of Assembly the average attendance was 64.9% and out of a possible 50 sittings in the Senate, the average rate of attendance was only 33%;

iv. Criticisms of the Seventh Parliament include: self-aggrandisement, incompetence and poor attendance to plenary sessions;

v. There is only one female out of the 10 highest attending members to both the House of Assembly and Senate sittings. Highest attendance was observed among men in both houses;

vi. While the House of Assembly sat for significantly long periods, the Senate did not do so well. The longest sitting in the House of Assembly was 6 hours 58 minutes while that of the Senate was 3 hours and 38 minutes. The shortest sitting in the House of Assembly lasted for 5 minutes while the shortest in the Senate lasted for 4 minutes.

vii. The House of Assembly debated for a period twice as long as Senate. In the period June 2012 to June 2013, the House of Assembly debated for 120 hours while the Senate only debated for 62 hours and 39 minutes;

viii. Among the plausible reasons for poor attendance in both houses of Parliament are concerns about non-payment of allowances and the issue of absentee MPs who are also Ministers serving doubly as executive and legislature.

This report also discusses whether a technocratic government is the answer to the country’s development agenda. Would it be ideal to have a technocratic government in which ministers of government are not career politicians, and, in some cases, not even members of political parties, but composed of experts in the fields of their respective ministries? In short, the paper interrogates whether or not Parliament is “a meeting of more or less idle people.”

Download this document
- Acrobat PDF version (803KB)
If you do not have the free Acrobat reader on your computer, download it from the Adobe website by clicking here


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