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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 8 - 2011
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
March 08, 2011
Both Houses resumed business
yesterday, Tuesday 8 March 2011, after a week-long break. The motion
on interference by the Minister of Local Government, Urban and Rural
Development, Hon. Ignatius Chombo, in the administration of local
authorities dominated debate in the House of Assembly. On the other
hand, the Senate was seized with debate on a motion on the achievements
of the Inclusive Government.
of Assembly Plenary
Hon. Alexio Musundire
(MDC-T Zengeza East Constituency), seconded by Hon. Innocent Gonese
(MDC-T Chief Whip) introduced a motion in the House of Assembly
yesterday condemning interference by the Minister of Local Government,
Urban and Rural Development, Hon. Ignatius Chombo, in the administration
of local authorities in the country, especially the urban councils
which are predominantly the stronghold of MDC-T.
argued that Hon. Chombo was abusing and manipulating the Urban
Councils Act and the Rural District Councils Act to advance
partisan and personal interests in local authorities. In particular,
Hon. Musundire questioned the appointment of Special Interest Councillors
by the Minister of Local Government, Urban and Rural Development.
He said the Minister was using this provision to subvert the aspirations
of the residents by sneaking into councils defeated ZANU PF candidates
through the "back door".
MDC MPs said the process
of appointing Special Interest Councillors should be transparent
and consultative to ensure that people with technical skills that
may be missing in councils were appointed.
The Minister of Local
Government, Urban and Rural Development also came under heavy censure
from MDC-T MPs who accused him of "corruptly amassing wealth"
by using his political office to acquire property from local authorities
in shady deals.
The debate was generally
partisan in nature; with MDC MPs attacking Hon. Chombo for allegations
ranging from political interference in local authorities to allegations
of corruption. ZANU PF MPs on the other hand took a defensive approach
on the debate, attempting to justify the actions of the Minister
of Local Government, Urban and Rural Development. Hon. Kudakwashe
Bhasikiti (ZANU PF Mwenezi East Constituency) said the Minister
acted within the confines of the law (Urban Councils' Act and the
Rural District Councils' Act) which empower him to give direction
to the administration of local authorities.
ZANU PF MPs argued that
MDC Councillors did not have requisite skills and experience to
run local authorities which was compounded by their lack of understanding
of the legislation that governs the administration of local authorities.
They cited this as the reason why MDC-T run local authorities were
always at logger-heads with the Minister of Local Government, Urban
and Rural Development. Thus, ZANU PF argued that the Minister was
just enforcing the law.
On the alleged acts of
corruption by Hon. Chombo, which Hon. Msundire and other MDC-T MPs
cited in their debates, ZANU PF MPs failed to give a convincing
defence other than arguing that it was not a criminal offence to
amass wealth in the country.
There was drama in the
House during the debate on the above motion. The Speaker interrupted
Hon. Gonese's contribution and stopped him from further debating
and cited provisions of Standing Order 62 (d) which he said Hon.
Gonese was repeatedly violating despite the Speaker's advice. The
provision of the cited Standing Order says that no Member shall
"reflect upon any statute unless for the purpose of moving
for its repeal". Hon. Gonese pointed out that he was within
the limits of the motion and pointed out that the last paragraph
of the motion was actually calling upon government to "review
the Urban Councils Act and the Rural District Councils Act".
Nonetheless, he was ruled out of order.
However, the Speaker
later on gave another opportunity to Hon. Gonese to finish his debate
which had been cut shot earlier. This did not go down well with
the ZANU PF Chief Whip; Hon. Joram Gumbo who pointed out that House
procedures did not allow that. In terms of parliamentary procedures
and practices, a Member is given one opportunity to debate a motion
and if a Member is ruled out of order by the Speaker and stopped
from further debating the motion, the Speaker cannot later on allow
the Member to debate again on the same motion. It appears the Speaker
was not properly advised by the Clerks-at-Table on the correct interpretation
of the provision of the above-cited Standing Order. There is certainly
no way Members can debate government policies without referring
to the relevant statutes.
The Senate debated
a motion on the need for government to take stock of the achievements
and failures of the Inclusive Government ushered in by the Global
Political Agreement (GPA) vis-à-vis the need to hold
elections this year. The motion was introduced in the Senate by
Senator Siphiwe Ncube (MDC-T Emganwini Constituency) seconded by
Senator Sithembile Mlotshwa (MDC-T Matobo Constituency).
The movers of the motion
noted that while the Inclusive Government has had some positive
achievements, conditions for free and fair elections were still
not conducive. They called for the implementation of all the agreed
reforms in the GPA before elections could be held. Senator Siphiwe
Ncube suggested that the country should hold a referendum to find
out in people wanted elections this year under the current conditions.
who contributed on the motion pointed out that elections in this
country have always been characterized by violence. Hence they recommended
that elections should be held only after parties had agreed on the
election road map as envisaged in the GPA.
However, ZANU PF Senators
said elections should be held this year. Their argument was that
the "GPA was meant to last for two years" paving way for
elections. They accused MDC for dragging its feet on elections because
they were not yet ready for elections.
ZANU PF Senators said
it was also critical to hold elections this year in order to do
away with many centres of power in government. They also tried to
link the necessity of holding elections this year to the issue of
"sanctions". Their argument on this issue did not come
Both Houses are sitting
today. Question time and private members business will dominate
proceedings of the House of Assembly today. No new motions are expected
in the Senate except for those already on the Order Paper.
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