via Parly reads riot act to ministers | The Herald June 22, 2015
Cabinet Ministers who absent themselves from Parliament without notice now face contempt of Parliament charges after the National Assembly last Thursday adopted new Standing Rules and Orders.
The new Standing Rules and Orders were drafted by a sub-committee of the Standing Rules and Orders Committee chaired by Kuwadzana representative Mr Nelson Chamisa.
“We now have measures to deal with ministers who do not come to Parliament. Ministers who do not attend parliament to address questions will be in contempt of parliament.
“If they are sick, they should inform Parliament instead of simply not coming,” Mr Chamisa said.
A number of backbenchers have raised concern on a number of occasions on the absenteeism of some ministers that has seen some questions going for months on the Order Paper without being answered.
Apart from sanctioning absent ministers, the new Standing Rules and Orders also increased the time set aside for questions without notice from one hour to one hour 30 minutes.
Parliament’s question time is on Wednesday and in the National Assembly the time for questions without notice is usually from 2:15 pm when the House sits to 3:15 and this has now been extended to 3:45 pm. Parliament’s question time is divided into two segments which are the questions without notice that focus on policy issues and the ones with notice that are specific with members required to put them in writing in advance.
Mr Chamisa also said the new Standing Orders and Rules would also clarify further the dress code for parliamentarians.
“We have also clearly articulated what is the dress code for parliamentarians after realising that some members were coming to parliament inappropriately dressed,” he said.
A number of parliamentarians have been ejected from the House after coming dressed in party regalia or revealing dresses.
Seconding the motion to adopt the new Standing Rules and Orders Masvingo Central representative Cde Daniel Shumba, also said the new quorum for the National Assembly had been increased from 25 to 70 due to the increase in the number of parliamentarians.
The National Assembly was increased from 210 members to 270 at the adoption of the new Constitution in 2013.
Harare West representative Ms Jessie Majome, proposed that the new Standing Rules and Orders be amended to protect female legislators against sexual harassment.
“The new rules should also prohibit speech that offends others and constitute sexual harassment,” she said. She also proposed that in the event that the Leader of Government Business in the House who is the Vice President is not around, a minister be appointed to act in his capacity to ensure the smooth flow of parliamentary business.
The proposed amendments were adopted and the new Standing Rules and Orders will be effected immediately.