Speaker warns ‘errant’ ministers

Source: Speaker warns ‘errant’ ministers | The Herald May 28, 2017

Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Parliament will not succumb to threats on legislators by some Cabinet ministers for discharging their constitutional mandate of playing an oversight role, Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda has said.

Parliament was finalising a legal framework to rope in the Prosecutor-General to charge errant Cabinet ministers and would summon the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission if it failed to act on corruption allegations levelled against members of the Executive.

Advocate Mudenda said this last Friday while addressing civil society and legislators during celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust, an organisation that had been supporting activities of the Legislature.

He said the Constitution empowered Parliament to hold any State entity and its agencies to account, and if the legislative assembly failed to safeguard the supreme law, members of the public were free to take it to the Constitutional Court.

“Some of my (portfolio committee) chairpersons have been threatened. Does this chairman want to take over my ministerial position? Why is his committee so inquisitive? My answer to that is: it is not the committee that is being inquisitive, it is the Constitution.

“Because all of them — the institution of Government and their agencies – must account to Parliament. If you do not want that let us amend the Constitution. (But) I am not sure if people will agree,” said Adv Mudenda.

“If Parliament fails to uphold the Constitution you still have access to the same Constitution, Section 167 (2), where you are called upon as civil society to take Parliament to the Constitutional Court for failing to uphold the provisions of the Constitution. It is there in black and white.”

He said the Committee of the Standing Rules and Orders met last week and resolved that the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act be revised to allow it to invoke the law and rope in the Prosecutor-General to charge members of the Executive who did not respond to recommendations.

“Some people have been saying Parliament has no teeth. It depends on how you are inspecting our teeth.

“If you want to see our teeth, ask us to open our mouth, you will see our teeth that they are sharp and they will bite,” said Adv Mudenda.

He said Parliament would soon write to ZACC to carry out investigations in cases where portfolio committees have concluded that corruption is rife.

“For example, where committees have come to a conclusion that there is corruption by so and so and if no action is taken, we shall write to ZACC and say do your work and if they do not they shall be summoned by Parliament because they are not independent to the extent that they are not accountable to Parliament.

“And obviously they would not want to appear before Parliament for dereliction of duty.

“So we are tightening up the screws and we believe that in so doing we shall enhance the political will to act accordingly,” said Adv Mudenda.

He hailed the partnership between Parliament and development partners like SAPST saying they had ensured that Parliament did not become a rubber-stamping arm of the State.

“Just to prove my point. On two occasions, the Budget could not be debated because the concerned portfolio committee realised that there was no disaggregation of the budgetary allocation, particularly to the Office of the Auditor-General, the commissions, the Council of Chiefs and the Minister of Finance and Economic Development (Patrick Chinamasa) agreed to stop debate.

“That is the power of your Parliament now through the support of SAPST. We cannot compromise on what ought to be done procedurally,” said Adv Mudenda.

He said they would beef up security during public hearings to nip hooliganism in the bud.

Speaking at the same occasion, SAPST chairperson Mr Innocent Matshe said they would continue to support legislative assemblies in the region through various activities such as capacity building for lawmakers.

He said they would also take Parliament to the people to enhance transparency and accountability consistent with reforms that Parliament had set out to achieve over the years.

SAPST executive director Mr John Makamure commended the improvement that had been registered on the Parliament committee system.

He said Parliament’s oversight role had been enhanced through the committees.