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Parliament stops publishing Hansard
The Sunday News (Zimbabwe)
February 19, 2006

Parliament has not been publishing The Hansard since late last year, depriving the public of a vital source of information on legislative debates, the Sunday News can reveal.

The Hansard is a printed manuscript containing a complete and accurate record of the debates of the House of Assembly.

The Clerk of Parliament, Mr Austin Zvoma, confirmed on Friday that Jongwe Printers, the company contracted to print the handbook, has failed to produce the publication owing to the availability of raw materials.

"It’s true that we have not been receiving Hansards because Jongwe Printers has been failing to procure newsprint. Jongwe Printers last printed Hansards late last year and we have a backlog of 17 editions. We sat briefly last year and the Hansards are not yet out. They have been giving us the Hansards without any problems since mid-1980s.

"The backlog is seriously affecting all the Members of Parliament, the Parliament and all Ministers who have to respond to the questions that are raised by the House. Some of the debates are raised during the Ministers’ absence and they need the texts in front of them when responding to these issues. We have written to them (Jongwe Printers) to give an assurance that they should deliver on time and they confirmed they are going to do that," he said.

Mr Zvoma said Parliament had an agreement with Jongwe Printers to print The Hansard and be paid thereafter. However, he would not reveal the amount of money involved in the deal.

About 8 060 copies of The Hansard are supposed to be printed the day after each Parliamentary sitting and these are meant for Members of Parliament, constituency information centres and members of the public.

Following the passing of the Zimbabwe Constitution Amendment No 17 Act, Zimbabwe’s House of Assembly now consists of Lower and Upper houses.

The number of copies of The Hansard needed for the Senate could not be ascertained yesterday. The non-availability of The Hansard seriously affects democratic processes because the public is not kept accurately informed on what happens in Parliament. Voters want to know how their representatives in the House contribute to national debates.

"The production of The Hansard also affects the general public. As part of our reforms, we said Parliament is an open institution where the people raise issues. If they (Jongwe Printers) fail to produce The Hansard, we can go to other companies, but the last time we checked, there was no other company that was able to print them. We are going to keep our doors open," said Mr Zvoma. The Speaker of Parliament, Cde John Nkomo and the President of Senate, Mrs Edna Madzongwe, could not be reached for comment.

Zanu-PF’s secretary for information and publicity, Dr Nathan Shamuyarira, confirmed on Friday that Jongwe Printers has not been able to print The Hansard but attributed it to the unavailability of newsprint.

He said negotiations with Mutare Board and Paper Mills, Zimbabwe’s only maker of newsprint, were underway, adding that the printing of The Hansard would resume next week.

"The problem is not with Jongwe Printers, but with Mutare Board and Paper Mills. It (Mutare Board and Paper Mills) said it had a short supply of newsprint because it is also supplying the paper to other companies. It has very little in stock. The company is the only one that supplies newsprint to all companies in the country like The Herald and others.

"I spoke to the managing director of the company, a Mr Gwaunza, yesterday (Thursday) who said we will receive newsprint next week. He said he will give us 24 tonnes of newsprint on Monday. What is needed is 50 tonnes, but he said he will give us only half of that. We will get the remainder during the course of the week. If we get the newsprint, we will clear the backlog the same day," said Dr Shamuyarira.

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