Zim’s best, worst legislators
MORE than half of the 292 legislators in the eighth Parliament have not made any meaningful contribution to the legislative agenda before the august House, raising questions about the calibre of individuals sent to represent the interests of the people in the legislative assembly.
A snap survey by the Financial Gazette’s Andrew Kunambura revealed that the majority of the lawmakers either sat in Parliament for the last 12 months without saying anything; or continuously missed House sittings, many times without the Speaker’s written permission; or whatever they said did not add value to Parliament proceedings.
To track the performance of the Members of Parliament, the Financial Gazette examined copies of the Hansard — the official record of Parliament — and the parliamentary order papers covering 60 sittings that were held since Parliament was officially opened by President Robert Mugabe on October 28, 2014.
The rating of each of the MPs was based on their individual floor contributions.
The grading was also based on the legislative agenda and the performance of MPs in committee sessions covered by the Financial Gazette in the same period.
These days, thousands watch the televised Parliament highlights of the week, on Wednesdays during lunch hour.
It is always a rowdy and not always an honourable spectacle to watch as MPs often heckle each other, resulting in near fistfights that kept the Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda and his deputy, Marble Chinomona, constantly giving orders and declarations to deviant legislators.
Ministers, who have also been bombarded with questions, were also highly complicit in bringing the legislative assembly into disrepute as they frequently bunked the question time, making them some of the worst performers in the eight Parliament.
Ministers such as Oppah Muchinguri (Environment) Kembo Mohadi (State Security), Ignatius Chombo (Home Affairs) and Jonathan Moyo (Higher and Tertiary Education) were some of the worse culprits in terms of continued absenteeism, which at one point brought Parliament business to a halt and forced Mudenda to ask Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in his capacity as leader of the house, to engage President Mugabe, who is the head of State, to order ministers to attend the important question time.
Saviour Kasukuwere (Local Government), Walter Mzembi (Tourism), Joseph Made (Agriculture) and Patrick Chinamasa (Finance) have been some of the ministers who consistently attended sessions.
But even when the ministers were present, the business of asking questions, as much as that of debating motions, was largely left to a small clique of vibrant MPs who keep ministers on their toes.
The question time allows MPs to ask general policy questions without notice as well as some specific constituency related questions that are written and submitted to responsible ministers on the order paper prior to a sitting.
While some MPs featured prominently on both the impromptu questions time and the questions with notices, the majority of MPs appeared to be just figureheads who make numbers in the crowded chamber.
The Speaker and Deputy were not rated since they are moderators of Parliamentary proceedings, while the Senate was not considered since it does not have elected MPs.
Mike Gava: Since his election in 2013, the Mhondoro-Ngezi legislator has only made news for his court case where he was being tried for firing a volley of bullets to scare a quarrelsome girlfriend at Kadoma Rainbow Hotel last year. His highly publicised divorce from Tendai Wenyika came only a few years after their celebrity marriage. On the legislation side of things, Gava has not done anything more than asking two questions.
Killian Gwanetsa: A former army chief, he is currently serving a two-year suspension from the ruling party, ZANU-PF, for fanning factionalism. A check with parliamentary records indicated that the Chikombedzi legislator has not even asked a single question in Parliament about what was being done to help develop his constituency since he took the oath of office in 2013. He has also not contributed to any debate during the second session of the eighth Parliament, according to records.
Jeppy Japoon and Kenneth Matimba: The Bikita South and Bikita East legislators have been some of the worst performing MPs over the second session. Their neighbouring constituencies have a lot of common issues such as hunger and the problem of resettled villagers who have been at the mercy of lions straying from the Save Conservancy, but they have left the job of asking those questions to Joseph Chinotimba of Buhera South, which shares boundaries with Bikita East. The pair has just been quite disappointing.
Costa Machingauta: Despite coming from the opposition MDC-T which has contributed the most vibrant MPs who have debated motions and asked questions to ministers with vigour, Machingauta has chosen to remain in the shadows. This is despite the fact that his constituency, Budiriro, has a lot of issues such as land occupied by barons, properties that are being destroyed by the City of Harare and water shortages among others.
Malach Nkomo – The former radio personality has disappointed many especially those he represent in Insiza South. Without much contribution in the House, he has dismally failed to justify the noise and publicity that his election victory attracted in 2013.
There is a whole legion of other MPs who have largely remained anonymous, even in their very own constituencies. Very few people can remember names such as Christopher Chitindi (Muzarabani South), Jeremiah Chiwetu (Marondera East), Kisito Chuvamba (Chiwundura), Newton Kachepa (Mudzi North), Martin Khumalo (Lupane North), Miriam Makweya (Gokwe Mapfungautsi), Webster Maondera (Glen Norah), Obedingwa Mguni (Mangwe), Aldrin Musiiwa (Chakari) and Fungayi Ndoro (Murewa West), from an enormous list of other MPs who make up the National Assembly.
We will not waste space on the usual suspects, Nelson Chamisa, Innocent Gonese, Zwizwai Murisi, Tapiwa Mashakada and others who are linguistically adept having spent years perfecting their vocal talents in debating during the sessions of previous Parliaments.
It is probably wiser to look at those who entered the august House in July 2013 who have been movers and debaters of motions regularly, adding colour and verve to Parliament.
Dexter Nduna – The Chegutu West MP, perhaps, is easily the best thing ZANU-PF added to Parliament by debate performance. He has never shied away from any debate; he has moved own motions and he has asked many a pertinent question to any minister without fear or favour. It is not surprising that for a legislator who represents a predominantly agriculture constituency, Nduna’s victims have been Made and Douglas Mombeshora. The former military man is certainly worth his salt.
James Maridadi – For a man who defeated such a prominent figure as Goodwills Masimirembwa to win the Mabvuku-Tafara seat, expectations certainly weighed on Maridadi like a tone of lead, but if he is to be judged by his performance in debates and searching questions, he would certainly pass the test with flying colours. Combining his witty oratory antics and public appeal, which he earned during his days inside radio broadcasting and as MDC-T president Morgan Tsvangirai’s spokesman, Maridadi has managed to establish himself as one of the fiercest debaters in Parliament.
Irene Zindi – The Mutasa South legislator has been one of the few positives of this Parliament. She has led one of the most vibrant portfolio committees (on Local Government) and she has contributed to motions with passion, the highlight of which she confronted former local government minister Ignatius Chombo, telling him to stop interfering with the affairs of councils for his own good and who knows, this could be as well one of the many reasons why President Mugabe had to reassign him from the ministry he had become so attached to. And, just maybe, talk of impact of the oversight role.
Fanuel Munengami – what a session he has had? The Glenview North MP has been a real revelation. He has not let his young age be a hindrance, and has been a constant contributor. He certainly has a bright political future.
John Holder – from his favourite seat away from the limelight and obscured by several rows of benches, the Zishavane-Ngezi MP has been a huge light shining from the otherwise drab backbench, which largely became a refuge for the dismal performers. Holder has been probing, searching and entertaining.
The list of these workhorses is, however, not long, but people like Munyaradzi Kereke (Bikita West), Makhosine Hlongwane, Tapiwa Matangaidze, Oliver Mandipaka and Remigius Matangira deserve special mention for their efforts.
The rubble rousers
Controversy was a major feature of this past session, whereby some legislators have decided to take it upon themselves to entertain not only fellow MPs, but the nation at large with their undying antics.
Tabitha Khumalo – Controversy trailed the Bulawayo East MP – an absolute drama queen – who never disappointed all the time. She earned herself ejection from the House once during this session after leading a rebellion against absent ministers in a protest that almost completely froze Parliament proceedings for the day. She has been controversial inside and outside Parliament. In March, she was arrested and charged with indecent exposure after she stripped to her undergarments to a party supporter who had been undressed by people believed to belong to ZANU-PF, following violent skirmishes in Bulawayo. The sharp-tongued legislator has also courted controversy by openly supporting commercial sex workers, even describing them as pleasure engineers whose trade should be legalized. Transactional sex has since been declared legal by the country’s courts.
Justice Mayor Wadyajena: The mere mention of the youthful Gokwe-Nembudziya legislator is set to draw laughter. He has been famous for his popular bust-up with Kasukuwere over unending controversies surrounding the community share ownership schemes the latter presided over during his tenure as indigenisation minister. Wadyajena is one young MP with the proverbial heart of a lion – never afraid to court controversy. In June, he was thrown out of the House after he pitched up late in ZANU-PF regalia, a dress code prohibited under the standing orders. He still pursues Kasukuwere.
Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga: Perhaps, the “rubble rouser-in-chief” of the eight Parliament so far. Twice, she has paraded female underwear in Parliament to support her argument. Once she paraded sanitary wear for women and once she almost exchanged blows with Wadyajena, earning herself marching orders. Misihairabwi-Mushonga, a proportional representation legislator, has also introduced very controversial motions like that which seeks to empower women to register children in their maiden names and even raised a point of order with the speaker that sexual harassment of female legislators within Parliament precincts was rampant. She is certainly one to watch in the coming session.
Joseph Chinotimba: From the day that he was elected to represent Buhera South, it was clear that this man would set the august House alight. He has been subject of ridicule and joke, even by fellow MPs, but nothing has stopped him from being as vocal as they come. This is one man who made it a point to ask at least one question during every question time; every order paper has his questions and he contributed vigorously to debates in the National Assembly and in the Portfolio Committee of Local Government he sits in. At one time, a committee meeting ended prematurely when he confronted a colleague who was taking questions from journalists to pose to Chombo. For his sheer controversy, Chinos, as Chinotimba is affectionately known, has certainly become a darling of many and is one of those widely tipped to retain his constituency in the next general elections.