Source: EDITORIAL COMMENT : Playing house with national business now punishable | The Herald September 10, 2019
The last two Parliamentary sessions have become a talking point by the majority over the lackadaisical approach of Parliamentarians towards national issues.
Apart from the level of Parliamentary debates which Advocate Mudenda have since described as “appalling”, absenteeism has also been very high.
Some Cabinet ministers have become renegades in Parliament, absconding question and answers sessions throughout, despite being directed by Cabinet to attend parliamentary sessions as required by law.
And we have often said such attitudes from Cabinet ministers to absent themselves from Parliament with no genuine reason is a clear sign of pure contempt and disdain for accountability, which should not be the case particularly from public officer bearers.
The situation has since gotten out of hand because presiding officers are now spending the better part of their time chasing over errant Cabinet ministers and their deputies for failing to respond to questions from backbenchers.
In a recent emotive speech, Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda expressed his outrage over absentees and threatened to approach the Presidium for corrective action.
True to his word, Advocate Mudenda has not been sitting on his laurels. He now wants Cabinet ministers and their deputies to commit to national business.
And to commit, they shall, because Adv Mudenda has since informed President Mnangagwa on his intention to institute disciplinary measures against errant ministers.
Last Wednesday’s appalling attendance during the Question and Answer sessions left him with no option, but to crack the whip against absentee ministers and their deputies.
“I want to advise the honourable members that I have written twice to His Excellency (President Mnangagwa) about non-attendance of honourable members and I am told the matter was discussed in Cabinet and ministers were told to attend Parliament in terms of Section 107 (2) of the Constitution,” he said.
Ordinarily, no public official worth his/her mettle and committed to serve the nation would need to be reminded of their duties by having the riot act read out to them.
It is therefore inherently unethical to have Cabinet ministers indulge in such malfeasance, when they are expected to serve both the Government and the people for national good.
Already there are expectations from ordinary citizens, business leaders and civil society that Government officials should be in the forefront of establishing and ensuring that Government policies are propagated.
The Government is in an economic transitional stabilisation mode to bring the economy back on its rail, following a long hiatus. The period requires engagement at all levels and Parliament is the ideal nexus between Government and the people, where discussions are held in earnest for the good of this nation.
That can only happen if we have men and women of high moral standards, ethical and committed to carry forward the Second Republic’s vision.
Sadly, judging by what is happening in the august House, where absenteeism is the order of the day, it does not point to the trajectory that the Second Republic is seeking to achieve.
The attitude of the Cabinet ministers to undermine Parliament should be condemned in the strongest terms because it is the very same institution which gives their operations an impetus and a locus standi.
With the majority of the Cabinet ministers having been elected into the august House as Parliamentarians, they should surely understand and appreciate processes and importance of engagement with their constituencies, which need timeous updates on Government policy issues.
We therefore welcome the decision by Parliament presiding officers to escalate the issue and institute disciplinary measures against dodgy ministers to ensure that there is sanity within the House. Whilst there is a generally feeling that absenteeism of Cabinet ministers and their deputies, had gone for a long time unabated, it is not too late to rein in errant public officials.
Charging one minister with contempt of Parliament could actually yield the results that we all want — of ministers honouring up to duty —scrambling to attend parliamentary sessions and committee business.
Errant, greedy and highly mischievous and outright dishonest Cabinet ministers would therefore need to be reminded that their days are numbered.
These are public officials, drawing their salaries and benefits from public funds. They should therefore diligently serve the nation, rather than derail development by failing to attend Parliament sessions.
If anything, their actions are not only retrogressive, albatross to development, but are also in breach of the very same Constitution under which they were elected into office, to serve.
We are therefore optimistic that Parliament’s decision to take disciplinary measures against errant Cabinet ministers is not mere rhetoric, but will actually claim a few scalps.