The British political comedy, Yes Minister, was screened in Zimbabwe some years ago. The comedy featured Jim Hacker the Minister of Administrative Affairs, his permanent secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby and his private secretary Bernard Woolley.
There was one interesting episode worth reviewing as the debate about elections in Zimbabwe keeps popping up. It was entitled Equal Opportunities. In this episode Hacker is interviewed by a Grade 5 pupil, Kathy. The conversation goes like this:
Hacker: So, Kathy, whatever reason, the Prime Minister saw fit to invite one into the Cabinet and, well, here one is.
Kathy: Isn’t it a terrific responsibility?
Hacker: Well, I suppose, if one chooses to dedicate one’s life to public service, the service of others, responsibility is just something one has to accept.
Kathy: But all this power!
Hacker: I know, I know! Frightening sometimes! But it also makes one very humble, Kathy. There one sits at the Cabinet table, Number 10 Downing Street, and one realises………
They are interrupted by Hacker’s wife, Annie, and go on about women being the exploited sex before the crucial conversation continues:
Hacker: Thank you. Anything else you’d like to ask?
Kathy: Just one last question. As cabinet minister with all this power, what have you personally achieved?
Hacker: Achieved? Oh, well, all sorts of things. Membership of the Privy Council, the Party Policy Committee……
Kathy: No, I mean things you’ve actually done, that make life better for other people.
Hacker: Makes life better?
Hacker: For other people? Oh, there must be a number of things. After all, that’s what one’s job is all about, isn’t it …..18 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Kathy: Could you give me one or two examples? Makes it a bit boring otherwise.
Hacker: Examples! Difficult to know where to start. So much of government is collective decisions. All of us together, best minds in the country, hammering it out.
Kathy: Yes, but what is that you look back on afterwards and say “I did that.” You know, like a writer can look at his books.
Hacker: Government is a complex business. So many people have to have their say. These things take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Of course…… Good heavens, is that the time? I really must be getting my boxes. You will have to excuse me, Kathy…….
Hacker says dodging answering the little girl.
This is the same question that every Zimbabwean should ask his or her legislator as we head for the next elections. The time table is not there yet. But elections are coming. New constitution or not, Zimbabwe should hold its next elections in the next nine to 16 months because the term of the current legislators will have expired.
The next elections should be held any time from March next year to October. Legal experts from Veritas say the current parliament’s term of office ends on 28 June, the day President Robert Mugabe was sworn in not 29 March when the country held its elections. But it says the country cannot have a parliament for a maximum of four months which gives us until 28 October 2013 to hold the elections.
Zimbabwe will be 33 years old then. It only had proportional representation elections in 1980 when people voted for the party and the party listed candidates in order of priority. Votes were then divided and parties allocated seats.
After that Zimbabwe held constituency-based elections where candidates stood for a particular constituency. But people have never voted for the candidate, except perhaps in Masvingo where in one or two instances two ZANU-PF candidates contested each other.
Voting for the party rather than the candidate has seen the country getting mediocre legislators who are more loyal to the party leadership than to the people. It also led to arrogance among the party leaders and legislators themselves.
Vice-President Simon Muzenda even at one time told the people of Chivi: “Even if we put a baboon in Chivi, if you are ZANU-PF you vote for that baboon.”
As if not to be outdone, State Security Minister Nicholas Goche told United States embassy officials that in the 2000 elections rural people voted for land and thus for ZANU-PF while urban people voted for jobs, that is for the Movement for Democratic Change.
But he went further to state that in the urban constituencies, if the MDC had put a frog people would have voted for it.
Indeed, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu who had done wonders for Mpopoma as a ZANU-PF MP was told before the 2000 elections “chinja usavi”- that is change the party or we are not going to vote for you. And he lost to Milton Gwetu who practically did nothing for the constituency.
With the mediocre performance of the current legislators, who are viewing their seats as jobs, even clamouring for pensions, better salaries and cars, is it not time that Zimbabweans asked each: What did you do for us over the past five years? If they did not do anything, ask them why.
The next question should be: What are you going to do for us in the next five years? How are you going to do it? If they are sitting MPs, then what makes you think you can do this now when you failed to do that over the past five years?
It is time for the people to take the power into their hands, otherwise Zimbabwe is not going to develop. It must be clear by now that whether ZANU-PF or MDC, our MPs have practically not been doing anything except enjoy the benefits. Parliament is not the road to wealth.
That is not how to develop the country. That is not service to the people. That is now how you make life better for other people.
Just look around, if you were riding chovha with your MP five years ago but he or she is now driving a four-by-four, did not have a house or moved from Mkoba to Riverside, you must get worried, and start asking questions.
It is now time, MPs started serving the people, not the other way round.