Gift Phiri 12 March 2017
HARARE – Parliament had to be adjourned last week during a crucial debate
on xenophobic attacks on Zimbabweans in South Africa because Members of
Parliament, who were present, could not constitute a quorum for the debate
to proceed, the Daily News on Sunday can report.
On March 1, Mabvuku-Tafara MDC MP James Maridadi presented before
Parliament his urgent motion on xenophobic attacks in South Africa, after
televised images of armed gangs attacking immigrants and looting
foreign-owned stores in Pretoria were beamed.
Just after question time, Maridadi tabled the motion, ably seconded by
Dexter Nduna of Zanu PF, and made a passionate and eloquent speech
describing as “unfortunate and regrettable” Pretoria’s failure to protect
A thoughtful contribution from Binga North MDC MP Prince Dubeko Sibanda,
focussing on the problem posed to South Africa by the presence of an
abnormal number of economic refugees from Zimbabwe, was cut short by a
sudden automatic adjournment when just after 6pm a quorum could not be
An MP drew attention to the lack of a quorum, and the bells were rung;
then Speaker Jacob Mudenda counted the members present in the National
Assembly and realised a quorum was not present, leading to the adjournment
till the next sitting day.
This was just the latest time that debate had to be aborted for want of
Parliament needs a quorum of at least 70 of the country’s 210 legislators
to be present.
The incident has revived long-standing concerns about the lackadaisical
attitude of MPs towards the business of the august House.
Parliamentary sessions have been characterised by bunking ministers and
empty seats as most MPs prefer to do their private businesses when the
house would be in session.
Mudenda has written to President Robert Mugabe complaining about the
ongoing poor attendance record of Cabinet ministers, which opposition
parties said was “disrespectful to the House”.
Ministers and their deputies are expected to answer questions from
legislators on Wednesdays in the National Assembly and Thursdays in the
Some of the lawmakers are in the habit of pitching up just to register
their availability before hastily retreating from Parliament building to
conduct their personal business.
The list of legitimate reasons for failing to attend includes standard
ones such as holiday, illness or death of relatives, and more specific
ones such as “carrying out party business,” and various insurmountable
circumstances, such as delayed flights, traffic jams and home emergencies.
As a result, Parliament has not been effective in the discharge of its
legislative and oversight functions, with critics accusing the assembly
for having been reduced by the executive branch of the State to a mere
Parliament adjourned debate as South Africans looted at least 20 small
businesses believed to belong to immigrants in South Africa’s capital,
Pretoria. Nobody was killed in the violence, according to South African
South African police have declined to state if the Pretoria attackers were
specifically targeting foreigners.
But South Africa’s Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba has admitted there
had been renewed violence against foreigners this year.
“Unfortunately, xenophobic violence is not new in South Africa,” Gigaba
The violence against immigrants has flared against a background of
near-record unemployment, with foreigners being accused of taking jobs
from locals and getting involved in crime.