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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 6 - 2011
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
February 23, 2011

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The major highlight in the House of Assembly yesterday was question and answer session where backbenchers quizzed cabinet Ministers about policy issues and programmes under their purview. The Senate on the other hand continued with its debate on the motion denouncing the violence which occurred in Harare recently.

House of Assembly Plenary Session on Wednesday 23 February

Questions without Notice

Backbenchers fired the following impromptu questions on policy issues at the few Ministers who were in the House yesterday;

Cabinet Role in the Budget Process

Hon. Willias Madzimure asked Deputy Prime Minister Professor Mutambara if the National Budget was a preserve of the Minister of Finance given that some Ministers, namely the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Joseph Made and the Minister of Tourism, Mr. Walter Mzembi, have been accusing Hon. Tendai Biti of deliberately under-funding their sectors as a means of political sabotage. Professor Mutambara informed the House that the formulation of the National Budget was a collective Cabinet responsibility.

Hence no Minister can disassociate himself or herself once the Budget has been passed by Parliament. He further said that if for whatever reason Ministers were not happy with certain aspects, the right platform to discuss those issues was at Cabinet meetings.

Rentals for Constituency Offices

Hon. Margaret Zinyemba asked the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs as to who was responsible for settling Members' rentals for Constituencies Offices as some Members have been kicked out of the offices by landlords due to rental arrears. The Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Advocate Eric Matinenga informed the House that that was the responsibility of the Clerk of Parliament, not his Ministry's.

Administration of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF)

On a related question, Hon. Adv. Matinenga was asked by Hon. Prosper Mutseyami to clarify the policy regarding the administration of the CDF, in particular whether or not military and intelligence officers were part of the administration structure. In his response, the Minister said there two documents that guided the administration of CDF; namely, the CDF Constitution and the Manual. He informed the House that those two documents only mentioned elected officials; the House of Assembly Member of Parliament, Senator and Councilor as the administrators of the CDF. Hence the security personnel had no business in the administration of the CDF. He advised MPs that if they encountered any problems with the implementation CDF programmes, they should alert his ministry. On a supplementary question raised by Hon. Joram Gumbo if the Minister could consider allocating Senators their own specific portion of CDF, Hon. Adv. Matinenga said currently the economic resources did not permit such expenditure.

Increased number of School Dropouts

Hon. Makhosini Hlongwane asked the Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture if there was any policy to address the plight of school dropouts who were on the increase due to inability by parents to pay school fees. The Minister, Senator David Coltart, said this was mainly due to inadequate resources from the fiscus. He reminded the House that parliament allocated $469 million to his ministry. He further noted that out of that allocation $406 was for salaries leaving only $63 million for operations. The Minister also informed the House, that the cost of educating one child at a government school was $73 per term. But currently school fees was pegged at $10 per child per term, nobody was picking up the $63 difference. He further noted that due to the poor economic performance many parents were out of employment and as a result were struggling to raise school fees for their children. The Minister said while government had in place the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) meant to cater for children from poor backgrounds, the challenge was that there was overwhelming increase of orphans and vulnerable children competing for the same meager resources provided through BEAM.

Teachers Incentives

In response to a related question regarding the policy on the teachers' incentives that parents were paying to supplement the salaries of teachers, the Minister said this was a stop-gap measure meant to keep teachers in schools until such a time that government was able to pay teachers decent salaries. The Minister was responding to a question posed by Hon. Ward Nezi.

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