THE election tide is past and now we can see who was swimming naked.
So much was promised during the election season and the period to deliver starts here and now.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has moved very fast to appoint his Cabinet, albeit a bloated one for a bleeding economy. It has a mixture of technocrats, the deadwood, the young and untested. His job in the second term is clear — deliver and make your legacy. On the reverse, Mnangagwa legacy may mean nothing if he has the last supper mentality.
The citizens and business sector are still puzzled as to what informed the formation of Mutapa Investment Fund, a replacement of the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), a fund that never fully operated in nine years of its existence. It should be remembered that Mnangagwa has been in charge of the country for six years of the nine that the SWF was in existence.
It remains a contentious point that Mnangagwa seemed to be in a rush to change the SWF Act. A week later, there was no board or chief executive officer for the Mutapa Investment Fund. So why was this done in a rush without it being tabled in Parliament?
Whatever the answer is to the above question, soon Zimbabweans will know because Mnangagwa will on Tuesday next week officially open the Tenth Parliament since independence in 1980. All the 280 elected National Assembly members plus the 80 Senators will be at the New Parliament building in Mt Hampden. Oops, I had forgotten Mnangagwa appointed seven unelected, non-constituency MPs to the lot.
Mnangagwa as is the tradition, will give a long list of his legislative agenda. This is more of a ritual. He has done it six times before, a time when his party enjoyed a two-thirds majority in Parliament but has on each occasion failed to complete his own set targets.
It will be interesting to note whether he has learnt anything from the past and probably now he may have a limited agenda, say 10 pieces of legislation per session and deliver.
Enough of Mnangagwa now. The biggest responsibility of Parliament is to hold the Executive to account. Is the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) ready and equal to the task? It is an established fact that it has a caucus of 103 National Assembly members. This is huge when compared to our neighbours South Africa.
The CCC representation in the National Assembly as a percentage is larger than the combined total of the Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters in South Africa.
It is time that the CCC uses its caucus to hold Mnangagwa to account at every turn. This will be put to test on who its leaders in Parliament will be. The opposition will be part of the Standing Orders and Regulations Committee (SROC). This is the most powerful committee in Parliament. The SROC is the committee that has the task of putting MPs into portfolio committees, including the powerful Parliamentary Legal Committee.
In terms of the rules, the opposition will chair about a third of the committees in Parliament and this includes the Public Accounts Committee.
The big question is: who are those CCC members who have the experience to chair committees? Who are the MPs who have the spine to stand up and raise the important questions of the day other than screaming empty rhetoric in the chambers?
I realise I have just jumped what should have been the first question? What is the CCC agenda now that it has a strong 103-member Parliamentary caucus? What are the issues that the party will prioritise and bring for debate as motions? Or that they simply sought power for the sake of it.
In the same vein, we dare ask what is the CCC’s strategy in the House? Will they use the force of logic to convince Zanu PF in debates? Or will they have a two-pronged approach like in South Africa where the Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters have not shied away from taking Parliament to court if the ANC abuses its majority?
Parliament has to hit the ground running. As soon as it starts sitting, it has to deal with the 2024 national budget and pass it before the Christmas recess. We are not clear on which budgets the CCC will put a fight, I mean areas and ministries they need to be really funded. They have to be clear on which budgets they think need a cut. They may not win every battle, but they have to have a plan and confide with the citizens.
It is not a secret that the opposition has been disgruntled with the electoral framework. Here they have an opportunity to initiate the electoral reforms. They have to spell out the exact reforms, if need be, even move Private Members Bills if they can’t find common ground with Zanu PF.
The CCC has to immediately establish its shadow Cabinet. A team that is competent and can ably debate the Zanu PF ministers in Parliament on policy issues and even offer alternative policy positions — being a true opposition and alternative government.
The last and important point is they have to be clear about Nelson Chamisa, their leader, who will be out of Parliament. Can he stomach the limelight being shone on his MPs or will he have a counter show to his caucus as a means to remain relevant in the political sphere? Or the party will bite the bullet, have one National Assembly member resign in a safe seat and have him come to Parliament via a subsequent by-election?
The lines have been drawn. The CCC has to come to the party and show Zimbabwe what it can do better by taking practical actions. It is a squeaky bum time. Like I said in the introduction, the tide is over and we will see who was swimming naked.
Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist based in Harare. He writes here in his personal capacity.