HARARE – Former Zanu PF chief whip and minister of Transport Joram Gumbo has described the current crop of legislators as a big letdown as they do not ask pertinent questions in Parliament resulting in a pile-up of questions with notice.
Gumbo said most of the parliamentarians are only lively during the questions without notice section but quickly withdraw into their shells when it is time for questions with notice.
According to Gumbo, some of the MPs who would have submitted their questions leave the august House before the questions are answered resulting in a logjam.
Responding to allegations by legislators that some ministers were in the habit of avoiding Parliament’s Wednesday question and answer sessions, Gumbo told the Daily News yesterday that it was in fact MPs who are causing the backlog.
“Ministers are being let down by MPs who waste a lot of time joking during questions without notice and by the time ministers want to respond to their written questions, the majority of them would have left and Parliament adjourns for lack of quorum only for them to complain that we are not responding to their questions. That is not fair,” Gumbo said.
Legislators, however, feel that it has become habitual for ministers and their deputies to skip these critical sessions, a situation they say defeats procedure and the checks and balance system in a democracy like Zimbabwe.
A Zanu PF MP, who spoke to the Daily News on condition of anonymity, named Gumbo, Local Government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and Joseph Made, as some of the officials who have dozens of questions that they are “avoiding”.
“Some of them have gone to the extent of calling us, threatening to use their influence in the party to fix us because they say we ask questions designed to expose them,” the lawmaker said. But Gumbo, said he was not aware of such incidences
“Being a former chief whip, I am one minister who clearly understands what the MPs go through when their questions are not answered. Whenever ministers cannot make it to Parliament, they send in their deputies and just check what time I, for example, leave Parliament waiting to answer questions. However, most of the times, the MPs will have left and I can give the example of (Jessie) Majome (MDC MP for Harare West) who has questions dating as far back as December last year on the order paper,” he added.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the leader of government business both in the Upper and Lower chambers, has previously suggested that it was Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda’s duty to ensure that ministers attend to policy answer questions relating to their portfolios.
Mnangagwa said this while responding to Ronald Muderedza, Zanu PF Buhera Central MP, who wanted to know government policy on ministers who do not take parliamentary business seriously.
“Government has three arms —the executive, judiciary and legislature. Now the honourable member is asking why the executive does not interfere with the legislature… he is asking whether there is government policy which resides in the executive but parliamentary procedure resides in the House. So I am completely correct to advise him that the offensive he seeks cannot be done by the executive but Parliament,” Mnangagwa said.
The question and answer sessions present an opportunity for backbenchers (MPs who are not ministers) to ask ministers questions on a number of issues that may be affecting their constituencies or the country at large.