People need to know who has turned parliament into a bedroom- Chamisa


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Kuwadzana Member of Parliament Nelson Chamisa says there should be a dedicated channel broadcasting Parliament live because people want to see which legislators are sleeping during debates instead of representing them.

Chamisa who proposed a motion calling for live and recorded coverage of Parliament proceedings said this call had come from Chipinge way back in 1997.

“It is very important that when Members of Parliament choose to confuse or mistake Parliament for a bedroom, the people are given the right to see who is converting Parliament into a bedroom and who is indeed, going to Parliament to do the work that they are supposed to do,” he said.

Chamisa said Parliament had a duty to make sure that ordinary people had access to information. The liberation struggle was half empty and meaningless without the liberation of Parliament.

“We need to make sure that we complete our liberation struggle by liberating this Parliament so that it is able to get to the people’s homesteads. I know that the liberation struggle is very close to our hearts but let us walk the talk. Let us act it and not just pronounce liberation with our lips but to act liberation and the action part does entail ensuring that Parliamentary debates are covered by the radio and television,” he said.

Once Parliament was covered live, Chamisa said, this would fundamentally alter the quality of policy making and the quality of debates.

“Hecklers have to be punished by voters. There are people who just come here to heckle others, forgetting that they were sent here to represent others. It is very important that when Members of Parliament come to the House, they are coming here to engage on osmosis of ideas, to place on the marketplace ideas that are going to improve our country,” he said.

Chamisa said live coverage would also deepen democracy.

“We need to make sure that we deepen our democracy by making certain that Parliament is ubiquitously present in the various homesteads. We need to move in that direction and make sure that we complete the journey of the reform of Parliament as so demanded by the people of Zimbabwe,” he said.

“The key asset of decision making is access to the kind of information that is being deliberated upon in this Parliament. It is for that reason that I want to push that we do put in place and set aside a special channel that is dedicated to the coverage of live and recorded proceedings in Parliament and in Portfolio Committees.”

 

Full contribution:

 

LIVE AND RECORDED COVERAGE OF PARLIAMENT PROCEEDINGS

 

MR. CHAMISA: I move the motion standing in my name that this House-

 

  • OVERAWED by the sporadic inadequate coverage of Parliamentary proceedings by the public broadcaster media.
  • CONCERNED by the inconsistent and irregular coverage of important national and public issues.
  • AWARE of the fact that we are citizens in an information society and knowledge dispensation.
  • DESIROUS of deepening and widening our demoracy in pursuit of transparency, openness and accountability.
  • ENLIGHTENED on the constitutional dictates to provide access to information.
  • ACKNOWLEDGING the expressions of the people of Zimbabwe in their desire for such coverage during the Parliamentary Reform Committee exercise of 1997-8.
  • NOTING that other countries have channels dedicated to provide coverage of live and recorded proceedings from Parliament.

 

NOW, THEREFORE this august House calls upon the Executive to:

 

  1. Establish and dedicate a television channel for live coverage and recording of Parliamentary proceedings;
  2. Ensure that a radio channel which will provide live coverage in all languages, of all Parliamentary proceedings is set up;
  3. Allocate air or broadcasting time for Parliamentary debates and proceedings; and
  4. Provide adequate resources and equipment for quality recordings of all Parliamentary proceedings and its Committees.

 

MR. MARIDADI: I second.

MR. CHAMISA: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker Sir. I rise in this august House to move a very important and pertinent debate on the need to have media coverage for our Parliamentary debates and proceedings including our Committee debates. We are saying this in the context of the challenges we have encountered as Members of Parliament, that our Parliament is not being adequately covered by way of the national broadcaster or state broadcaster. Our Parliament is not being covered by way of proceedings that are taking place as we are supposed to have.

I am saying this in the context of a report that was carried out by the Parliamentary Reform Committee in 1997, which was commissioned by Parliament. When I look at this report, it is very clear and self evident that across the whole country, the people of Zimbabwe have demanded that press be put in place to cover Parliamentary debates. This is not for the benefit of Parliamentarians but it is for the benefit of the proprietors of this country, in terms of the tax payers and people who contribute to who we are.

I was just going to make reference in passing as we are not allowed to read. If you look at page 69 of the Parliamentary Reform Committee Report, people in Beitbridge actually claimed that they want to see debates in Parliament being televised and reports being made public. They even want to see special reports in the various media particularly in our own State controlled media, The Herald because it is owned by the State. The same goes for people in Bindura, for example, who said that there should be television coverage of all Parliamentary debates in order for the nation to see what the Members of Parliament are doing. In Chipinge people said they want to see these debates televised, because they want to see Members of Parliament who are sleeping during debates as you know that most Members of Parliament, when they come here, they mistake Parliament for something else and end up sleeping.

It is very important that when Members of Parliament choose to confuse or mistake Parliament for a bedroom, the people are given the right to see who is converting Parliament into a bedroom and who is indeed, going to Parliament to do the work that they are supposed to do.

I have just taken some of the contributions that were made. It is actually a nationwide thing, people in Tsholotsho, Plumtree and Ntabazinduna all claiming that they want to see people being covered in terms of the debates in our Parliament. Not only that Mr. Speaker Sir, in terms of this Constitution, if you read Section 62 of the Constitution as read with Section 141 of the Constitution, there is actually a mandatory obligation on the part of Parliament to make sure that our debates are covered.

If I may just make reference to Section 62, which is Access to Information; it does stipulate that in subsection (1), every Zimbabwean, citizen or permanent resident, including juristic persons in Zimbabwean media, have the right of access to any information held by the State or by any institution or other agents of Government at every level in so far as that information is required in the interests of public accountability.

Clearly, we have a duty as Parliament to make sure that there is access to information by the ordinary people of Zimbabwe. We must make sure that we remove the iron curtain on this Parliament and make certain that we take this Parliament to the people or at least take the people to this Parliament, instead of this Parliament being regarded as some planet such as Mars or Jupiter, where people go but they do not know what they are doing there.

This is the problem with this Parliament; it is too secluded from the people. People do not have access to this Parliament. They do not know what is being debated or what the Parliament looks like. They have no idea of the quality of debates being undertaken. We need to take the Parliament to the people so that people are able to understand the debates deliberated here.

Equally so, if you go to Section 141 of the Constitution which is about the Parliament of Zimbabwe, it does give a mandatory obligation; public access and involvement in Parliament, especially on subsection (a) where it states that, “Parliament must, as a matter of national duty and obligation, facilitate public involvement in the legislative and other processes of Committees by the members of the public”.

So, clearly from a constitutional point of view, there is a need for us to make sure that we have access to Parliament being afforded to the people of Zimbabwe. This is the trend worldwide and even if you go across the river Limpopo, there is a special broadcast set aside for purposes of Parliamentary debates on SABC by the South African Government. If you go to Kenya, they recently adopted the coverage of Parliamentary debates as a matter of public policy. This also applies to countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Botswana. Here in Zimbabwe, we have a duty to make sure that even Ministers who have developed a propensity and proclivity for choosing not to be present for certain debates, people have to know and see them.

We must make sure that we expose non performing elements of Government and even within the Legislature. That can only be possible when we get Parliament to the people. I do know that scholars of Government have said that “Government is best that governs least” but I would want to say that “Parliament is best that communicates most.”

We need this Parliament to communicate to the people of Zimbabwe. We need this Parliament to be accessible to the people of Zimbabwe. Gone are the days when Parliament was just a mere brick and mortar institution where it was secluded from the glare of the public. We now need to make sure that the people themselves are part of the Parliamentary process by contributing to the Parliamentary processes by watching these debates live.
et me say that we are now a knowledge economy and also an information society. We need our people to vote on the basis of knowledge and on the basis of information. In a democracy, knowledge is supposed to govern ignorance but you will find that in our own situation, it would appear that we are forcing our citizens to allow ignorance to govern knowledge because we are not allowing our people access to that information.

When people are voting for Members of Parliament, they are not voting on the basis of the quality of policy making, quality of debates or the value that is being given democratically. They are actually voting on the basis of mere slogans that might not translate to the bread and butter issues that people are supposed to talk about. We feel that we need to move away from slogans and go to the substance of issues particularly as we look at debates in Parliament that are enhanced.

Why am I pushing for the issue of coverage of all these debates by our National Broadcaster? Firstly, it is because people have to be informed not just as voters but also as citizens. They have the right to know what Parliament is or is not doing. That is consistent with the dictates of democracy.

In fact, I would want to say the liberation struggle is half empty and meaningless without the liberation of Parliament. We need to make sure that we complete our liberation struggle by liberating this Parliament so that it is able to get to the people’s homesteads. I know that the liberation struggle is very close to our hearts but let us walk the talk. Let us act it and not just pronounce liberation with our lips but to act liberation and the action part does entail ensuring that Parliamentary debates are covered by the radio and television. If you look at our debates, they are just covered on the days of the Budget and the Presidential Speech.

It is very good to cover the Presidential Speech but it is also good to cover the residential speeches by most of the legislators who represent residents in the various constituencies. They also give responses to the President and we need to give time, resources and effort to this national attempt to cover our Parliament.

The second point why Parliament should be covered is because it will fundamentally alter our quality of policy making and quality of debates. Hecklers have to be punished by voters. There are people who just come here to heckle others, forgetting that they were sent here to represent others. It is very important that when Members of Parliament come to the House, they are coming here to engage on osmosis of ideas, to place on the marketplace ideas that are going to improve our country.

There is no need for us to come here and start exchanging blows. We must not do what was being done by some hon. member who was demonstrating certain things here and saying ndinokucheka. It is evidence of what I believe to be a big problem when we are not covering our debates in Parliament. I think the quality of debates does signify the quality of our democracy and our quality of our democracy has to be enhanced in terms of coverage of our debates.

The third point is the deepening of our democracy, the widening of the end-rope of democracy. We need to make sure that we deepen our democracy by making certain that Parliament is ubiquitously present in the various homesteads. We need to move in that direction and make sure that we complete the journey of the reform of Parliament as so demanded by the people of Zimbabwe.

Hon. Speaker Sir, I have often said that in terms of the need for access to information, there is no replacement to the aspect of making sure that citizens have their information. When people have information, they are empowered but when they lack information, they are disempowered. We have spoken so much about ZIM ASSET which is supposed to be an asset to the people and asset of information but it would appear we are talking about ZIM ASSET without giving people the key asset of decision making.

The key asset of decision making is information. The key asset of decision making is access to the kind of information that is being deliberated upon in this Parliament. It is for that reason that I want to push that we do put in place and set aside a special channel that is dedicated to the coverage of live and recorded proceedings in Parliament and in Portfolio Committees. That is the trend world-wide and that is what is taking place. It is not a question of resources but a question of wanting to do it. It is not a question of provision but a question of the vision because wherever there is vision, provision follows. So, when people are clear about certain things, it is not difficult to declare things that are supposed to be declared.

I would therefore say Hon. Speaker Sir, that we need to dedicate and establish a television channel for the live coverage of recording of Parliamentary proceedings. We have the resources, we have diamonds in Marange and we have salary-gates that have been causing problems. We must remove that money that has been disappearing into the pockets of a few and put it in Parliament so that we are able to cover debates that are being deliberated in this Parliament.

We need to allocate and ensure that there is a radio channel which is going to provide all debates in all the languages. The Constitution does require us to ensure that we cover our debates in Nambia, Nyanja or Ndebele. We should not just cover our debates without necessarily looking at all the indigenous languages, we need to do that. In fact, we need to make sure that apart from making live coverage of debates, Parliament must rotate. We must have Parliamentary meetings in Bulawayo, Manicaland and so on, so that it is truly national.

Parliament is not just an object that is supposed to be associated with Harare. Yes, we meet in Harare but we must rotate so that we are able to have coverage of Parliament, bringing it closer to the people.
I also feel that there should be a provision of adequate resources and equipment for the quality recordings of our parliamentary debates. This is the trend worldwide and this is what we should do, and having done this, our quality of democracy is going to improve.

Hon. Speaker Sir, I am kindly urging this Parliament to remove the iron curtain on this Parliament, to remove the kind of durawall that is on this Parliament and allow it to have access which is afforded and accorded to the people of Zimbabwe. I thank you.

(43 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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