THE first session of the Eighth Parliament of Zimbabwe, which ended in October last year, performed dismally as legislators failed to ensure the harmonisation of the country’s laws with the new constitution which became effective in 2013, while performance by MDC MPs also took a nosedive, a leading research institution says.
A report titled Occasional Visitors Re-Visited: Attendance in the First Session of the 8th Parliament of Zimbabwe by the Research and Advocacy Unit (Rau), which focused on the first year of the Eighth Parliament, which ran from September 2013 to October 2014, says the National Assembly only passed 11 Bills during the period.
However, only six of the Bills had something to do with harmonisation of the country’s laws following the adoption of the new constitution in May 2013.
The research showed that during the period the National Assembly sat for 242 hours, the equivalence of 30 working days. On average each sitting lasted 2,7 hours. The overall attendance in parliament improved with parliamentarians on average attending 66 times out of a possible 90 (72%), up from 65% during the fifth session of the Seventh Parliament.
“But a more important measure is in one product of the House, and that is the passing of legislation,” says Rau.
“… In the first session of the Eighth Parliament, a total of 11 Bills were passed, but very few that addressed the very pressing problem of harmonising existing legislation with the new constitution. Of the 11 Bills, six of these were to do with fiscal matters, and possibly only the National Prosecuting Act and the amendment to the Electoral Act could be seen to have been an attempt to harmonise legislation with the constitution.
“Given that the new constitution was effective from the day it was signed into law, there is potentially a very large number of existing laws that are probably ultra vires the constitution. These can be overturned by diligent litigation, but it would seem that this should be priority for lawmakers of the country, that assertive steps are taken to ensure compliance between the laws and the constitution.
“On current evidence, there seems to be no urgency on the part of the House of Assembly and its members.”
Judging from the first session, Rau says attending parliament may not be a time-consuming business as parliamentarians sat for an equivalent of 30 days in more than a year, with an average sitting under three hours.
The research also established that new members of parliament attended sessions more than those who have sat in previous parliaments. On average, new members attended 69 times (77%) while old members attended 54 times (59%).
The same trend was observed with cabinet ministers as ministers who were in previous parliaments attended on average 32 times (36%) whereas new ministers were more frequent, available on average 43 times (48%).
“Is this a case of familiarity breeding contempt?” asks Rau.
The research also showed that female legislators attended sessions more frequently than their male counterparts.
During the Seventh Parliament, MDC-T had the highest attendance rates of 71% while Zanu PF had a 60% attendance rate, with MDC legislators having an attendance of 37%.
MDC-T attendance has however dropped by 5% while Zanu PF’s has increased by 13%, according to the research.
The top 10 attendees of parliament during the period under review were also Zanu PF legislators, with Gokwe-Nembudziya legislator Justice Mayor Wadyajena attending all sessions while Sylvern Mawere, Molly Mkandla and Mathias Ndlovu missed a single session each.
Six other Zanu PF legislators only missed two of the 90 sessions.
“As we reported in the previous report, some members excelled in their attendance and in the Seventh Parliament this was overwhelmingly MDC-T party members. In the Eighth Parliament, this has altered completely, and Zanu PF parliamentarians are the most frequent attendees.”
“… The decline in the performance of the opposition parties may possibly be explained by the inter-party conflicts and faction fighting that has taken place in these parties, and particularly in the MDC-T.
“However, Zanu PF has not been immune from similar faction fights, and thus maybe the difference for Zanu PF between the previous and the present parliament lies in the lack of interest in a parliament in which Zanu PF only shared government.”
Zanu PF ministers dominated the bottom 10 attendees list with Joseph Made, Sydney Sekeramayi, Flora Buka, Dzikamai Mavhaire, David Parirenyatwa, Cain Mathema and Jason Machaya failing to attend a single session of parliament.