CITIZENS’ Coalition for Change (CCC) member of Parliament for Mbizo, Settlement Chikwinya, has challenged President Emmerson Mnangagwa to attend the National Assembly and answer to pressing issues facing the country, saying his State of the Nation Address (Sona) grossly misrepresents the realities on the ground.
In November, Mnangagwa presented the Sona in the new US$200 million Parliament Building in Mt Hampden while officially opening the ninth parliament. He painted a rosey picture of Zimbabwe’s socio-economic situation.
However, opposition MPs say Mnangagwa misrepresents the real situation, hence the need for him to come to Parliament and answer questions on the country’s various pressing issues, while getting the facts from constituencies as is provided by the constitution.
“We must be able to direct the President to be factual because we are the members of Parliament who come from constituencies.
“Instead of us answering to each other as members of Parliament, let us be guided by section 140 (3) of the constitution. Section 140 (3) of the constitution which directs as such – ‘The President may attend Parliament to answer questions on any issues as may be provided in the Standing Orders’,” Chikwinya said.
While Zanu PF MPs applauded Mnangagwa’s Sona during the parliamentary debate, Chikwinya said presenting the speech in a Chinese-donated parliament is evidence of failure.
“First of all, the Presidential speech was held historically at the new Parliament in Mt Hampden. In my view, that whole parliamentary project is in contravention of section 315 (2) of the constitution, (2) (b) to be precise, which states that and I want to blame us as Parliament as I quote this section because the constitution directs us to say, ‘(2) An Act of Parliament must provide for the negotiation and performance of the following state contracts’ and (2) (b) says, ‘contracts for the construction and operation of infrastructure and facilities’,” Chikwinya said.
“I want to believe that the new Parliament is an infrastructure and is a facility for housing lawmakers and the legislature. We, as Parliament, were never involved in the negotiation of that contract,” Chikwinya said.
Chikwinya said the government should be ashamed for failing to domestically mobilise resources to build Zimbabwe’s own Parliament, despite having over 63 precious minerals.
Zimbabwe loses an estimated US$1.2 billion annually to gold leakages, and this is some of the money that Chikwinya says could have been used to mobilise resources for domestic projects, which include building a new parliament.
“We stand here today guided by principles of a Westminster Parliament, a British-built Parliament and we are moving from a British-built Parliament to a Chinese-built Parliament. What have we, for us, to be proud of? We have nothing,” he said.
Chikwinya said Mnangagwa’s presentation on the electricity crisis is detached from the real crisis gripping the country. Mnangagwa partly attributed the electricity shortages to industrialisation.
Chikwinya said Mnangagwa has to interact directly with parliamentarians to find lasting solutions.
“In my constituency, I have areas that did not receive power for three days. We have an electricity crisis, but because we are burying our heads in the sand, we are blaming the electricity crisis and, as contained in the Presidential speech, we are burying our heads to the extent that we are blaming a booming industrialisation for the lack of electricity,” he said.
“So we are telling ourselves that industry is booming so much that there is so much demand for electricity and therefore, our generation cannot meet the demand — that is a lie.
“I come from Kwekwe; Zimasco was closed recently and only opened a week ago. Lancashire Steel, Haggie Rand Steel, ZiscoSteel, Sable Chemicals are down and these are huge power-consuming industries which were operating in the early 2000s and in the First Republic, but now they are not operating.
“How do we pride ourselves to the extent that because a museyamwa (informal trader) has opened dovi (peanut butter)-making project, therefore our industry is now booming? Let us face the facts; Hwange is not performing, Kariba is not performing. We must not bury our heads in the sand, let us face the crisis and take the route of South Africa where members of Parliament gather and tell their President that Mr President you must resign as long as we have this electricity crisis,” Chikwinya said.
He said Zimbabwe should take a leaf from South Africa where the parliament is presenting factual findings on the power crisis to the underfire President Cyril Ramaphosa.
He also said Mnangagwa’s Sona failed to speak authoritatively on the issue of peaceful and credible elections.
“He did not do enough to emphasise that Zimbabweans have suffered enough in a cycle of disputed elections. He did not commit enough to the Electoral Amendment Bill, he did not do enough to set the conditions because as he was speaking about the Sona, things were happening in Murewa where Honourable Garwe (Daniel) — and I have mentioned him by name because he can respond, he was sending his own party vehicle to go and assault 82-year-old people in village 16 in Murewa.
“Right now, a senior Zanu PF official is on record as saying all opposition identity particulars must be taken away so that they do not vote. What type of an election is that?” he asked.
Another contradiction arose on the presidential inputs scheme, which he said has largely been politicised. According to the address, the scheme is said to have benefitted about three million farmers.
“The scheme has been purely politicised. So, here is taxpayers’ money that we jointly approve as Parliament because the budget is apolitical,” Chikwinya said.
“When we pass the budget as presented by the minister of Finance and Economic Development, we pass it as a whole House – Zanu PF included; CCC and MDC-T included – but when it gets to the rural areas and village 25 in Nembudziya, the inputs are given only to members of one political party – so we cannot be celebrating that.”
This week, Norton legislator Temba Mliswa ripped into cabinet ministers for failing to attend parliamentary hearings to answer pressing issues within their portfolios, and to respond to Sona addresses.
“The State of the Nation Address and as the words say, ‘state of the nation address’, it is very clear in terms of what must be achieved and the success and the challenges. But, that also cannot be complete without the ministers responding. Unfortunately, not many ministers respond, which renders the address a mere ceremony.
“There are many people capable of being ministers here who are competent. Why should we be keeping people who are not doing the job? What other job are they doing in reporting to the President other than makuhwa (gossip)?
“What are you reporting? You are unable to respond on issues that you have been appointed to do in Parliament? This is the House that represents everyone. They (ministers) can go to cabinet, or any congress, but there is only one Parliament which represents the people and this is the august House. So, if you cannot lay your case here, it will not be heard,” he said.
Mliswa said while the ministers were failing to carry out their parliamentary mandate – the Speaker has not been doing enough to ensure ministers are held to account.
“This again, the Speaker’s panel, yourself included (Speaker), I think you are also a bit lenient on the ministers. There are rules that must be followed. For the first time, I will challenge the powers of the Speaker sitting there. He has the power to whip all the ministers.
“If not, they can be charged for contempt. No minister has been charged for contempt. They do not come to parliamentary question time. The last time the Vice-President came here, he assured us they will come. They have not. The President says the State of the Nation Address, they do not come. The honourable Vice-President comes as well hoping that he is a general, they also listen and see that he is a general but they still do not come.
“I am also disappointed that the Speaker’s panel has not exercised its power in ensuring that people are active when it comes to work. This is an institution which is governed by its rules and those rules must be used,” he said.
Apart from the Sona address, Mnangagwa has previously been accused of misrepresenting facts, and portraying a rosey picture far detached from reality.
As previously reported by The NewsHawks in January, Mnangagwa told the Feed Africa Summit in Senegal that Zimbabwe is currently food secure after implementing mathematical irrigation farming methods to tackle the effects of climate change like drought spells.
However, his claims contradicted his own government’s report released last year revealing that the country is experiencing one of its worst food crises with 5.6 million citizens stalked by hunger.
The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) 2022 Report compiled by his own government said that the country was experiencing food insecurity, with 5.6 million out of 16.6 million people (33%) having insufficient food, while projecting that 38% of rural households were likely to be cereal insecure at the peak of the lean season between October and last month.