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  • Parliament not fully playing its role in GPA implementation
    Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
    May 08, 2012

    The Global Political Agreement (GPA) was signed by the three political formations on 15th September 2008 after protracted negotiations between Zanu PF and the two MDC formations brokered by former South African President Thabo Mbeki. The GPA gave birth to the Inclusive Government or Government of National Unity (GNU), formed in February 2009. We are all aware that many of the provisions of the GPA have not been respected, leading to a paralysis of the unity arrangement although I still credit the GNU for bringing about economic stability and improving the provision of basic services such as health and education. Parliament, whose constitutional mandate is to oversee the work of ministries and government departments, has a duty to enforce implementation of the GPA. Sadly, the legislative branch has been found wanting in that area.

    Article 6 of the GPA mandated Parliament with leading the process of crafting a new Constitution for Zimbabwe. Despite the process being delayed and rocked by disagreements, I am one of those with a strong view that the process should not be abandoned. The fact that there is a draft produced (although some matters are still to be finalized) means COPAC has done a very good job so far under very difficult political circumstances. There is no doubt that at the end of the day we are going to have a much better Constitution compared to the current Lancaster House document, which has been amended 19 times. Parliament will have a responsibility to debate the draft when it is tabled in the House in order to ensure that what is taken to the Referendum is a good supreme law. A sober approach to debate that focuses on substance than narrow partisan political interests, is what we expect from members of Parliament in order for them to fulfill their role in the constitution making process.

    The other GPA aspect that Parliament must take the lead on is on the enactment of other appropriate laws of the land. Article 17 of the GPA commits the partners to prioritize the legislative agenda in order for it to reflect the letter and spirit of the Agreement. The letter and spirit of the Agreement is about unity; respect for the rule of law, including respect and upholding of the Constitution and other laws of the land; freedom of speech, association and assembly; security of persons; prevention of politically motivated violence; and total commitment to economic recovery through the enactment of appropriate policies and laws. Since Parliament’s constitutional mandate is to make law, one would have expected the legislative branch to accelerate the introduction of legislation that entrench democratic values and practices and address the lack of civil and political liberties in Zimbabwe. In addition, it is the duty of Parliament to see to it that these public policies are enforced. While it is accepted that most of the draft legislation comes from Cabinet, we must see more private member bills being introduced and passed by the two houses. Blocking of private member bills in Parliament is a major setback to Article 17 of the GPA. Sanity must prevail in Parliament in order for private member bills such as amendments to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and Urban Councils Act to see the light of day.

    Schedule 8 to the Constitution deals with transitional provisions and a framework for the new government. Of importance to note is the provision which says in the exercise of executive authority, the President, the vice presidents, the Prime Minister, the deputy prime ministers, ministers and deputy ministers must have regard to the principles and spirit underlying the formation of the Inclusive Government and “accordingly act in a manner that seeks to promote cohesion both inside and outside government”. The numerous squabbles in the Inclusive Government clearly show that there is no cohesion at all, and that some of the ministers are clearly violating the provisions of the Agreement and the Constitution. Parliamentarians should be questioning ministers consistently on the actions that infringe upon the provisions of the GPA and recommend measures to be taken on such errant ministers.

    Media reform is another area that Parliament should take a keen interest on. The GPA clearly says that the public and private media shall refrain from using abusive language that may incite hostility, political intolerance and ethnic hatred or that unfairly undermines political parties and other organisations. The Agreement called on the inclusive government to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to achieve this objective. While Cabinet has issued directives to the responsible minister to amend bad laws such as the Broadcasting Services Act and Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and reconstitute the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, these directives are still to be implemented. Parliament, through the portfolio committee on media, information and publicity, has a duty to engage the responsible minister on the matter in order for the public to fully understand what is going on.

    On the economic front, the GPA partners committed themselves to establish a National Economic Council, composed of representatives of the Parties and of the sectors of manufacturing, agriculture, mining, tourism, commerce, finance, labour, academia and other relevant sectors. The terms of reference of the Council include giving advice to Government, formulating economic plans and programmes for approval by government and such other functions as are assigned to the Council by the Government. The spirit behind the proposed Council of broad-based participation in economic governance is very good. However, there is no word on when the Council will be established. The Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion has an obligation to question the responsible ministers on the matter.

    The last issue that I want to talk about is on land. The GPA committed the political parties to conduct a comprehensive, transparent and non-partisan land audit during the tenure of the Seventh Parliament for the purpose of establishing accountability and eliminating multiple farm ownerships. The Seventh Parliament is mentioned as proof that the legislative branch has an important role to play in this land audit. It is the responsibility of the Portfolio Committee on Lands and Agriculture to oversee Executive actions on this issue.

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