Harare West Member of Parliament Jessie Majome says Parliament is shirking from its responsibility by letting President Robert Mugabe officially open its sessions because he is no longer obliged to do so under the new constitution.
She said Parliament was actually trivializing its own role as the constitution clearly details the separation of powers between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary because Mugabe never opens sessions of the judiciary.
“The drafters of this Constitution were very determined that this Zimbabwe observes the principle of the separation of powers as detailed in the national objectives, and in the values and principles in Section 2. It requires that Parliament is taken in theory and in fact as robust, strong and equally powerful arm of Government,” she said.
“That is why it provided a procedure in Section 141, particularly to ensure that Parliament itself provides for its own sittings and recesses. I am saying that because I believe it is time that we as Parliament played our role.
“We must not shirk from our responsibility no matter how radically different it might be from the past. This Constitution does not at all provide that His Excellency the President must open or can open a Session of Parliament. It provides that His Excellency the President must determine the first sitting of Parliament after a general election. It does not provide for general procedures.”
Majome said the new constitution allowed the President to issue an annual State of the Nation Address, which Mugabe did, and also to “summon Parliament from time to time to address special business but it does not provide that he must necessarily open Parliament. That is given as the role of Parliament itself”.
“To illustrate this Mr. Speaker, I am hoping that our Standing Rules and Orders and indeed hon. members pay attention because if Parliament itself does not fulfill the Constitution when it is required to do so then who will?
“It would be absurd if the head of the Executive will for example cross over to that other bewigged arm of the State that is the Judiciary and issue and opening address for the sessions of the judiciary.
“It would be a travesty, how is it that for the legislature it is possible because the legislature, the judiciary and the Executive are each equal arms of Government, indeed they must be enjoyed.”
Majome also criticised Mugabe for glossing over issues like aligning laws with the new constitution and not introducing at least six critical bills.
MS. MAJOME: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir, for giving me this honour and the opportunity of adding my voice to debate on this very important speech that was delivered by His Excellency the President, to mark the official opening of this session. Mr. Speaker Sir, I also want to pass my sincere condolences to the family of the late Hon. Tsogorani who is no longer in our midst.
I want to approach my debate on this speech from four perspectives, if you will allow me Mr. Speaker Sir. Firstly, I noticed that His Excellency did dwell on very important, urgent and pressing business of the need for Zimbabwe to urgently implement the Constitution and align all our laws and practices to the Constitution.
However, Mr. Speaker Sir, I must express my disappointment that in my respectful view, the agenda that is outlined for this particular Session does not go far in order to demonstrate the urgency and necessity of this particular exercise.
I will also dwell a bit on the procedures of our august House in relation with the same Constitution that we must implement. In my view, the process of alignment of legislation and passing of the Bills that His Excellency, the President proposed – it is very well for us to write a long list of Bills that we want to pass. However, if this august House is not sufficiently respected by the Executive and does not take itself seriously in its deliberations to try and improve Bills, we will indeed continue to be thudding a discordant rubber stamp on Bills without adding any value. It is my hope that, that will be addressed in this Third Session.
Mr. Speaker Sir, I want to begin by referring to the first page of the address by His Excellency, the President where he noted that there are certain Bills which have already been brought to the august House for alignment to the Constitution. He cited three of them which have already been passed by the august House, that is the Electoral Amendment Act, The National Prosecuting Act and the Gender Commission Bill. I want to begin by adding that it is unfortunate that although Parliament has passed these Bills into Acts, the passage of the Bills have not complied, either fully or at all with the Constitution.
Therefore, I think it is unfortunate that, that particular reference to these Bills is there. I want to begin with the Electoral Amendment Act, in five respects. It falls short of what is in the Constitution. This august House sadly passed an Act which, while it purported to align the law to the Constitution, it did not provide for the following five things required by the Constitution. The first is that of providing universal adult suffrage of all Zimbabweans because Section 155(1) (c) of the Constitution entitles each and every Zimbabwean, wherever they may be, to vote.
I do appreciate that there is an argument advanced to the effect that because the Voters’ Roll is ward-based, it is therefore impossible for Zimbabweans resident in the diaspora to vote. Mr. Speaker Sir, I wish to vehemently quarrel with that proposition because each and every Zimbabwean in the diaspora has roots in Zimbabwe in a particular ward. No Zimbabwean in the diaspora just emanated from there. I want to ask this august House not to take that excuse and not shirk from its responsibility by showing that it ensures that our electoral law aligns with the Constitution because it is possible that each and every Zimbabwean outside the diaspora can actually be registered to vote and their vote is ascribed to a particular ward unless, we doubt the accuracy and veracity of our own voters’ roll. If indeed a person who votes in Zimbabwe is guaranteed to vote only once and if there are mechanisms to ensure that there is no double voting, I cannot imagine why we would be afraid to ensure that even people in the diaspora choose whatever ward they choose, once they choose it, it should mean they cannot vote in another ward.
Mr. Speaker Sir, secondly, the Electoral Act that we passed does not at all outlaw voter registration slips which is in my respectful view quite a sad development because it deprives us as Zimbabweans from according the highest levels of excellence and administrative efficiency that we can come to. A voting slip Mr. Speaker Sir is a sign of failure to register voters. It is a sign of the failure to administer efficiently a voters’ roll that results in certain intending voters having failed to find their names on the voters’ roll. We must not be a country that celebrates, accords and accepts mediocrity to the extent of legislating it and allowing failures like that. There is no reason absolutely why voters cannot be registered, there should be no voting slips. I say this Mr. Speaker Sir because Section 156, Sub Section 6 of the Constitution requires that the voting method to be used must be simple, accurate, verifiable, secure and transparent. Using voter registration slips Mr.Speaker Sir, is a far cry on a different planet from this.
Thirdly, the Electoral Act that is celebrated as having accorded itself to the Constitution also is materially defective in that it fails to fulfill and put in place mechanisms to ensure that all contesting players in an election are accorded adequate and equal access to both the electronic and print media both private and public as required by Section 155; (1d). Mr. Speaker Sir, if anyone tunes into ZBC, I am sure they will know exactly what I am talking about.
Fourthly Mr. Speaker Sir, the Electoral Act that we also passed still need to be worked on because it will still require – it willfully fails to pay attention to the clear requirement in Section 183of our Constitution. The Section provides that no judge shall be appointed to more than one court except as provided by the Constitution. This Constitution allows only judges of the superior courts to also be appointed as judges to the Constitutional Court; it does not now allow any other judges of whatever court to be appointed such as the electoral court.
Fifthly Mr. Speaker Sir, the Electoral Act although it is celebrated here in the speech as a law aligned to the Constitution, it did not do for the fifth reason that it did not provide at all for a procedure and a mechanism as required by Section 157, Sub Section 4 for ensuring that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is consulted before any amendments to the Electoral Act are made. That is not there at all.
The National Prosecuting Authority Act that indeed is also celebrated in this speech as having aligned itself to the Constitution, unfortunately also Mr. Speaker did not also fully comply with the requirements in the Constitution. I am hoping that it can also be brought back that the Executive must also bring it back to this august House so that it fully complies with the Constitution as it is intended to be celebrated. I say that because Section 259; Sub Section 10 of the Constitution requires that that the Act must provide for the conduct and discipline of members of the National Prosecution Authority as well as conditions of service as well as that they must be independent.
Mr. Speaker, that National Prosecuting Authority Act did not do so at all. That attempt was not done in a Statutory Instrument that was passed about three months ago, which Mr. Speaker, with respect is not an Act of Parliament. A Statutory Instrument is not an Act of Parliament by stature of imagination and the Constitution provides that the National Prosecuting Authority Act must provide for those.
Mr. Speaker Sir, if you will allow me, I will also just divert your attention to the procedure. On important issue of implementing the Constitution, the drafters of this Constitution were very determined that this Zimbabwe observes the principle of the separation of powers as detailed in the national objectives, and in the values and principles in Section 2. It requires that Parliament is taken in theory and in fact as robust, strong and equally powerful arm of Government. That is why it provided a procedure in Section 141, particularly to ensure that Parliament itself provides for its own sittings and recesses. I am saying that because I believe it is time that we as Parliament played our role.
We must not shirk from our responsibility no matter how radically different it might be from the past. This Constitution does not at all provide that His Excellency the President must open or can open a Session of Parliament. It provides that His Excellency the President must determine the first sitting of Parliament after a general election. It does not provide for general procedures.
The previous Constitution indeed did this but instead this new Constitution found another way to ensure that His Excellency has opportunity to address Parliament. That is in Section 140, where he must issue an annual State of the Nation Address which he has done and also that he may summon Parliament from time to time to address special business but it does not provide that he must necessarily open Parliament. That is given as the role of Parliament itself.
To illustrate this Mr. Speaker, I am hoping that our Standing Rules and Orders and indeed hon. members pay attention because if Parliament itself does not fulfill the Constitution when it is required to do so then who will? It would be absurd if the head of the Executive will for example cross over to that other bewigged arm of the State that is the Judiciary and issue and opening address for the sessions of the judiciary.
It would be a travesty, how is it that for the legislature it is possible because the legislature, the judiciary and the Executive are each equal arms of Government, indeed they must be enjoyed. It is bad enough that the Executive is the one that bring Bills to Parliament but to a symbolically State that something else.
Mr. Speaker Sir, allow me to also express my disappointment that I do not see in His Excellency’s address attention or even mention of what I will call six critical urgent Bills that must be brought to the House.
The first one itself is that I do not see any provision or intention to bring the National Peace and Reconciliation Bill that is one outstanding Commission in terms of this Constitution. Mr. Speaker Sir, the Executive must explain what the difficulty is in ensuring that Zimbabwe does have a National Peace and Reconciliation Commission. The need for that is evident Mr. Speaker Sir. Unfortunately nowadays, the need is actually now extending even into the intra party realm. Each and every Zimbabwean would be served by the enactment of this Bill so that we can have a national peace and reconciliation so that we can move forward as a nation.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker Sir, there is also no mention to amend the Broadcasting Services Act which is causing untold suffering, loss of investment and also loss of job opportunities and depriving Zimbabweans of their livelihood. We are one of the few countries that are in the Stone Age as far as having one electronic broadcast and a television station. Surely the Executive must make sure that we move with the times. That also reflects on the stature of the country in terms of attractiveness of investment.
Mr. Speaker probably, there is also no move to also try, amend or repeal the provisions of the Access to Information, Protection of Privacy Act. Also, there is no mention at all of the Constituency Development Fund Bill which is really odd because in the last Budget the Hon. Minister of Finance and Economic Development who happens who happens to be sitting across me did promise that he had made an allocation for Constituency Development Funds for hon. members of Parliament to go and utilise in their constituencies. However, I am starting to wonder Mr. Speaker Sir, whether the Hon. Minister of Finance and Economic Development was trying to pull a fast one on the legislature so that we can be happy and approve the Budget because there is no plan anywhere to bring the Constituency Development Fund Bill.
Mr. Speaker Sir, I want to also say that I am glad that His Excellency, the President made reference to the need to pass a State Procurement Amendment Bill so that they decentralise procurement to local authorities. In that vein, I was going to be encouraged but then, I was disappointed that the mention of the Local Authorities Bill that is in here is seeking to prioritise consolidating the Urban Councils Act and the Rural District Councils Act and not necessarily prioritising the Intention and the Devolution Provision in the Constitution.
I do note that His Excellency, the President said that the Bill will establish a tribunal to deal with issues of the dismissal or discipline of councillors, mayors and chairpersons. That is encouraging but in the meantime, it is hoped that the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the hon. Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs prevails upon their colleague Ministers, particularly the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing to remind him that indeed there is no provision at the moment. There is a great lacuna at law because there is no provision to discipline errant mayors and councillors.
As such, the Minister does not have any power at all to dismiss or purportedly to fire councillors. Mr. Speaker Sir, it is my fervent hope that hon. Ministers and members of the Executive do respect this Constitution. Even as we are passing the law, they should obey the law that is there.
I am also disappointed that the only reference to legislating in the area of health on the Public Health Bill seeks only to talk about medical aid societies. It is important, but I am concerned that there is no mention whatsoever of ensuring that the provisions in Section 29 (2) of the Constitution, that is the right to health that provides that the State shall put in place mechanisms to ensure that no one is turned away from any health institution when they require emergency medical services.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the Executive cannot go on ignoring such important things. Zimbabweans are dying every day. A person gets involved in an accident. They are taken by an ambulance, for example to Parirenyatwa Hospital, a government hospital or even at the Avenues Clinic, but they cannot be treated there and they will die because she has not been paid for. But, the Constitution does require the State to put in place the necessary mechanisms’ to ensure that that is done. It is my hope that they move with urgency and do that.
Mr. Speaker Sir, allow me to also express my appreciation that the Executive is now attending to reviewing existing laws in order to ensure that perpetrators of sexual offences are given appropriate stiff sentences.
I am encouraged that the motion that I moved in the two previous sessions seem to be heeded, which unfortunately lapsed because the hon. Ministers of Health and Child Care, of Finance and Economic Development and of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development have still not responded to my motion. I have been compelled to move motions twice in order to reinstate that motion so that the hon. Ministers of Finance and Economic Development, Health and Child Care and Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development finally favour this august House and honour us with a response to their attitude on that motion.
I will indeed be moving another motion to reinstate that motion for the third time so that finally, hopefully and prayerfully, the hon. Ministers will respond to my motion. But, I must express my disappointment at what His Excellency, the President expressed at his dismay on the rape of six-month toddlers. The more we continue to isolate rape victims and survivors and categorise them according to age or marital status or religion, we continue to lose the plot. If we keep on raising alarm only at certain categories of victims such as six-month toddlers, we continue to tolerate rape and say that maybe a ten-month old, a fifteen year old or a thirty year old can be raped. Mr. Speaker Sir, it would have been my hope that His Excellency, the President would have demonstrated absolute zero tolerance to any form of rape. The reason why a six-month toddler is raped is because we allow rape in the first place. That is the reason why an 81 year old would be raped. It does not matter the age but let us simply show zero tolerance to all forms of rape and sexual gender based violence.
While His Excellency indicated that they are examining the laws on sentences, the issue that was raised by Hon. Misihairabwi-Mushonga is a matter that this august House should consider – the issue of the age of consent.
THE TEMPORARY SPEAKER: Order, you are left with five minutes.
MS. MAJOME: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. It is my hope that this matter of age of consent receives very considered and very exhaustive attention because of the debate that came about and the different issues around reproductive health as well as protection of girls.
It is my hope that in the re-examining of these laws to find out what the minimum age of consent should be, this matter must make us as Zimbabweans move away from the paradigm where we are so locked in toxic and also posts and politics where we want to vie for positions. We should actually move away from there and start addressing the issues that trouble the people that we lead. But this, I am proposing that the issue of the age of consent is one issue that should be subjected to a referendum. Referendums have only been known to be about political issues that are high. The issue of what age is it that our girls and boys should be able to indulge in sexual intercourse is a matter of grave concern that is even more important than all these other political issues that we talk about.
Mr. Speaker Sir, I want to propose that we move away from the beaten track and actually conduct a referendum on the age of consent so that we can arrive at a destination where we protect our girls from abuse by setting the correct age but also protecting them and the boys also from maybe the diseases and issues like that. I want to conclude by saying that, it is my hope that when the legislative programme that is proposed by His Excellency comes to the House in the Third Session, we would do things differently so that the Portfolio Committees such as the one that I have the privilege to lead, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. We have conducted public hearings over Bills.
We have done it for a second time and other Portfolio Committees like the one on Budget, Finance and Economic Development and also the one on the Gender Commission Bill have conducted public hearings and heard from Zimbabweans their views about what they want to be in a Bill. Even in the Labour Amendment Bill, only the members made representations but all those representations, views from the public and from the hon. Members of Parliament simply fell on deaf ears.
Members of the Executive just closed their ears, came here, rail-roaded and they passed the Bills in exactly the same way that they were.
Mr. Speaker Sir, it will continue to be a waste of taxpayers’ money if hon. Ministers, the members of the Cabinet continue ignoring the suggestions that are made in good faith by the people of Zimbabwe through their elected representatives to effect amendments for the improvement of certain Bills. This legislative agenda will amount to naught if that is not done. It is my hope that we now proceed in earnest.
I thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.