Zanu PF Ministers in Accountability Dilemma

ZANU PF’s culture of secrecy in government operations reflects badly on its ministers as they are now faced with problems of being accountable for their ministries, political analysts have said.

The analysts said Zanu PF ministers were still deeply embedded in a culture of getting away with anything and accountability was still alien to them hence their failure to answer questions in parliament. According to a group of lawyers ––Veritas –– many parliamentary questions asked last week were answered at a superficial level or not at all.

The lawyers said this demonstrated that either the ministers were not fully briefed by their ministries or that they were glossing over situations that sparked the questions.

One such example, the lawyers said, was of the Minister of Mines and Mining Development Obert Mpofu’s response to questions by Kambuzuma MP Willas Madzimure on the diamond rush in Chiadzwa.

Mpofu was asked to explain the circumstances surrounding the engagement of the army by government to drive out illegal miners at Chiadzwa diamonds fields and the high-handed manner in which the soldiers handled the situation.

In his response Mpofu said the security forces were deployed to Chiadzwa to “flush out” about 30 000 illegal diamonds dealers, including foreigners.

He said that only three dealers died, but not at the hands of the soldiers. The death toll was contrary to reports by non-governmental organisations like Partnership Africa Canada (PAC) which earlier this month released a report titled Zimbabwe, Diamonds and the Wrong Side of History, claiming that 78 dealers were killed by soldiers and five died from cholera.

Political analyst Eldred Masunungure said failure by Mpofu to explain the use of the army in Chiadzwa was not a question of him not being in touch with his ministry, but a lack of accountability that existed before the inclusive government.

Masunungure said: “That culture is still deeply embedded among the crop of ministers from Zanu PF. It might not be the question of the minister doing it deliberately but that the minister will not be fully compelled to be accountable because, earlier, there was no such culture of accountability.

“The inclusive government is something that demands a new mindset, in calculation of notion and practice of accountability.”

He said there was need to inculcate the culture of accountability in political leaders and civil servants whom he said were not lazy, but did not perform due to lack of motivation.

Masunungure said it was difficult to believe that the government would only come up with a number of three people for those who died in Chiadzwa.

“I read one report that speculated that around 500 people could have been killed in Chiadzwa,” Masunungure said.

“I would be highly sceptical of the figure three. That is a gross understatement about the deaths at Chiadzwa and it shows lack of a deep sense of accountability on the part of the ministry.”

Another analyst who preferred anonymity said the issue of accountability has been a major problem over the years with the executive not taking parliamentary business seriously as they look at backbenchers as junior partners.

He said: “The ministers look at the legislature as a junior in the governance system so they don’t take the work of committees seriously. There is this perception that parliament is a junior partner in governance.

“This is such an attitude where ministers do not respond to questions and if they do, they give meaningless answers. The ministers do not bother that they are in violation of standing rules and orders which guide the work of parliament.”

He said the standing rules need to be tightened and punitive action should be taken against ministers who deliberately do not respond to questions.  

During last week’s parliament question time, Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa was more forthcoming when he was asked to explain what the Ministry of Justice was doing about the death of prisoners due to hunger and cholera.

The minister admitted that there was a high rate of malnutrition in the country’s prisons especially in Chipinge, Beitbridge, Harare Remand and Masvingo Central prisons and the main reason for this was inadequate funding.

“I need to be honest; the economic hardships that our people have been facing are hitting hard on prisoners. There are no uniforms, no food and the requirements could not be met because of shortages of resources,” said Chinamasa.

Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust director John Makamure said with the formation of the inclusive government, there was need for a spirit of togetherness and accountability to move the nation forward.

“Parliament should be able to execute its constitutional mandate without interference from the other two arms of the state (the executive and the judiciary),” Makamure said.

“Therefore it requires that if members of parliament ask questions in the House the ministers should respond in a meaningful manner in line with the spirit of working together and separation of powers.”

BY WONGAI ZHANGAZHA 

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