BY SILAS NKALA
FORMER Nkayi South MP Abednico Bhebhe (MDC) says Zimbabwe must draft a law which stipulates minimum qualifications for legislators so that they understand and effectively contribute to policy-making processes in Parliament.
Bhebhe said this on Sunday during a debate organised by the Nkayi Community Parliament group to discuss developmental issues in the district.
The debate was hosted by Slibele Mpofu, an educationist and development advocate. The aim of the debate was to discuss the duties of MPs and their roles in development issues in their constituencies.
Bhebhe became an MP for Nkayi in 2000 and served for two terms.
He said the qualifications of MPs are currently prescribed under section 125 of the Constitution, adding that there was need to also add requirements for educational qualifications.
“There are basically five requirements that are prescribed in that clause. The first one being that you must be a registered voter in the constituency you want to represent. The second requirement is you have to be at least 21 years of age if you aspire to be a Member of Parliament (MP) and be at least 40 years old to represent people in Senate. The third one is that there is no academic qualifications or skills for one to be an MP; the fourth one is that you must not have a criminal record and the fifth one is you have to be a Zimbabwean citizen,” Bhebhe said.
“I feel it is prudent that minimum qualifications have to be prescribed because of the complexity of debates that take place in Parliament, and we have got to deal with the issue of basic understanding of the law. It makes no sense for a semi-literate person to be debating and passing laws for the entire country. It is actually retrogressive yet it is the present reality in Zimbabwe. An MP should be a person who is able to read and write and have the basic understanding of the law,” he said.
Bhebhe said because Zanu PF had since the 1980s used food aid as a political weapon, there had been misconceptions that the role of MPs is to distribute food and attend funerals for constituents.
“So many things have been done by people who try to entice the electorate to vote for them. But legally, there is no basis or legal framework that supports distribution of food by an MP. Food distribution, attending funerals or paying fees are not legal roles of MPs,” he said.
Bhebhe claimed that MPs who use food to entice the electorate will be covering up for their inefficiency in their legislative, representative and oversight roles.
“So they cover up by attending funerals, buying coffins, and distributing food, which is not the role of an MP. It is just a political role by an MP who wants to be re-elected,” he said.
One of the participants, Arthur Moyo said MPs should be able to articulate different issues, thus the need for them to possess basic education.