MDC-T MP for Kuwadzana, Nelson Chamisa, recently got his way when the speaker of Parliament consented to his motion calling on President Robert Mugabe to return to the house to respond to legislators’ questions regarding his state of the nation address.
That is all in order and we hope that the president will heed the call.
The constitution, indeed, contains a provision that makes it possible for Mugabe to attend Parliament to respond to questions in the spirit of nation building and as a way of making the executive more accountable. The problem, though, is that Mugabe is not obligated to attend question time in Parliament and can only do so at his own whim. The fact that all is left to Mugabe’s choice makes it premature for us to celebrate the speaker’s apparently professional position in granting Chamisa his wish.
We don’t have any fresh memories of Mugabe being accountable to Parliament, which he seems to regard with contempt – judging by his statements in the past. For instance, when the constitutional parliamentary committee finished its job and the president went to Parliament for the official adoption of the new constitution in 2013, he poured scorn on the legislature.
He reminded MPs that he was the ultimate power, following earlier attempts to include a clause that disqualified him from running again.
But his ego and arrogance aside, his return to Parliament is good for democracy. Besides enhancing trust in the office of the presidency as accountable and transparent, attending question time would help clear a lot of unanswered questions regarding the state of nation address. As it stands, there are many questions hanging over the address.
The nation, as represented by the MPs, would want to know the feasibility of the 10-point plan he articulated. We want to know where the funding for the new blueprint will come from, who would be behind the rescue plan, the expected period of delivery, what policy government will adopt to deal with the devastating climate change, how it plans to resuscitate agriculture and many other issues.
Simply debating the address is not useful. In the past, we have seen Zanu (PF) MPs wasting precious time just heaping praises on Mugabe for his address, rather than debating the salient issues raised. This is likely to be worse now that Zanu (PF) has an overwhelming majority in the house, reducing debate to mere praise and worship.
On the other hand, opposition MPs have just been attacking the speech without much substance. It might be different if Mugabe would find time to attend Parliament and respond to burning issues.