via Expanded Zim Parliament to host more bodies than seats | SW Radio Africa by Tererai Karimakwenda
Over 100 members of Parliament will have no place to sit when the new session begins, as the chamber can only accommodate 160 legislators at a time. The new Parliament building, approved by cabinet last year, has still not been built and no information has been provided by government since.
The outgoing Parliamentary chief whip for the MDC-T, Innocent Gonese, explained that the problem started when the senate was re-introduced in 2005, but the number of MPs was not reduced to compensate for the increased numbers.
“Even in the last Parliament, when we had official days like the official opening day, it was really a crisis because that Parliament used to accommodate 150 MPs before the increase, and prior to that it was just 100 members of Parliament,” Gonese told SW Radio Africa Tuesday.
The MDC-T chief whip said members will either have to wait outside, sit in the public gallery or stand. He added that if all the MPs were to turn up for a session, it would be overcrowded and practically impossible to fit all 270 members into the chamber. There are now 210 elected members and 60 women added via the new constitution.
“The unfortunate thing is that we have continued to expand the numbers in the national assembly without a corresponding increase in the seating capacity, which is in any event impossible. An ultimate solution would be the construction of a new Parliament building,” Gonese explained.
Last year the state run ZBC news reported that local government Minister Ignatius Chombo, who chaired a committee tasked with locating a site for the new Parliament, had identified Mt Hampden in Harare as a fitting location. The ZBC broadcaster said cabinet had approved the project, at a cost of $400 million.
But according to Gonese the project has been on the drawing board for quite a long time and he is not sure whether any progress, including the laying of the foundation, has been made.
Speaking to journalists on Monday, the Parliamentary Clerk Austin Zvoma sounded as though the problem had surprised him as well, saying: “As you may appreciate, it is now evident that the facilities here were not meant for 350 members, plus staff and the visitors because this is the only Parliament building in the country.”
The controversial decision to increase the number of Parliamentarians in the country from 210 to 270 was approved by both MDC-T and ZANU PF legislators in the coalition government, as part of the new constitution. The increase makes Zimbabwe’s Parliament one of the largest in the world.
Gonese said this was a “bloated” Parliament when viewed in the context of Zimbabwe’s population, which is estimated at 13 million.
This embarrassing oversight symbolizes the way Zimbabwe has been run for 33 years under the Mugabe regime. There has been no concerted effort or political will to repair roads, street lights, vehicles, and sewerage and power infrastructures, leading to breakdown of basic services. Corruption and mismanagement also rule the day.