BY Veneranda Langa
LEGISLATORS yesterday said they often ended up performing duties which were not theirs just to win votes as the bulk of the electorate was ignorant of the roles played by the President, Members of Parliament and councillors.
The issue came up during an Action Aid Zimbabwe-facilitated workshop for MPs in Kariba yesterday.The workshop was focusing on the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG).
The charter promotes electoral democracy, social justice issues and emphasises access to basic human rights such as the rights to health, water, education, shelter, food and other social and economic rights as stipulated in articles 32 and 33 of ACDEG.
Buhera Central MP Matthew Nyashanu (Zanu PF) said MPs, whose roles included legislative, representation and oversight, often found themselves performing duties such as overseeing construction of bridges just to endear themselves with the electorate. He said under normal circumstances that role fell under the purview of local authorities.
“This country practices representative democracy, as MPs we are elected by the people to represent different constituencies, but these people do not know the different roles of a councillor, MP or President,” Nyashanu said.
“You find that people elect someone to be MP merely because he/she bought them a bottle of beer and as a result it affects the performance of that MP in their legislative and oversight roles because they spend most of the time trying to please the constituents, The MP ends up abandoning the national agenda,” he said.
Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs minister Mary Mliswa-Chikoka said MPs should now begin to educate their constituents about the differences between MPs and councillors’ roles.
“We need to educate the electorate about the role of the President, MPs and councillors. We (MPs) are the very persons that give the electorate money to buy beer and we give a wrong impression about the role of an MP. Normally, when we go out there to campaign we do not tell them the truth and we promise them that we will build them bridges and roads. If you do not do that as an MP they will start questioning the reason why they voted for you. We also need to encourage our constituents to go and register to vote because at times they do not know that they can only vote if they are registered,” Mliswa said.
Chitungwiza North MP Godfrey Sithole said: “Actually, most of the longest serving MPs in Parliament are those that are mum in the House, but they have been voted back into Parliament because at their constituencies they run around buying people beer and providing transport. They do not check to find out if an MP is contributing meaningfully to debate in Parliament. They do not care about that.”
Bikita West MP Elias Musakwa said being a rural MP was very demanding as the constituents expected their legislator to provide free food, use of his vehicle as an ambulance and other odd chores.