Since the elections were held in July 2013 I have not received a notice of a meeting called by my Member of Parliament or even heard that he came to the constituency, at least to my ward. A whole year has passed and I am asking myself where is he, what is doing that is keeping him so busy that he does not come? When he is in parliament what issues is he bringing up and/or debating? Whose interests is he representing if he doesn’t come to us the people to find out what our issues are, and how we want them to be addressed?
Every five years we have elections, and, in the last 15 years, I have had the same MP, Dr. Tapiwa Mashakada, but what has he done in my constituency for him to be voted for consecutively? Are we as Zimbabweans voting for a political party rather than for an individual we think can represent our interests and who will work towards getting these interests addressed at a national level? From where I am standing, it looks very much like the former. Dr. Mashakada has not done much in my constituency to warrant re-election and yet he continues to be elected. My constituency is well known for water challenges and occasional refuse collection yet people are billed consistently. How then do we raise our issues if we never see the Honourable MP?
In the previous term, Dr. Mashakada was in government as the Minister of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion, so he can be forgiven for not visiting the constituency as often as he should. According to ‘Occasional Visitors: Attendance in the Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe’ his attendance in parliament between June 2012 and June 2013 was not impressive at 29% and yet he was re-elected. Twenty nine percent is a fail grade under any circumstances, so why is he back in parliament; what did he do to deserve re-election?
There is urgent need for us to understand the roles and responsibilities of MPs; i.e. law-making, fostering public debate, oversight, and representation; this is in accordance with the constitution, section 117 (2) “The legislative authority confers on the legislature the power to:
- Amend this Constitution in accordance with section 328;
- b) Make laws for the peace, order and good governance of Zimbabwe; and
- c) Confer subordinate legislative powers upon another body or authority in accordance with section 134.”
About a month ago RAU held workshops with approximately 100 women and the majority of them did not know the role of parliament, yet most of them had voted. When asked what they expect from their MP, they said that he/she should attend to ZESA issues, attend functions in the constituency, i.e. weddings and funerals, provide food assistance among others, none of which fall under the broad outline stated above. It is important for the general public to know that MPs are there because we voted them to be our representatives in Parliament; they work for us, and just as we chose them we can as well get rid of them for non-performance. If we all take the time to understand our governance structures and the constitution, we will take our power back and ensure that MPs are working for us and raising issues that are important to us. The power resides in us the people and not in the MPs, but this is not as it is perceived or portrayed. It is critical for the MPs themselves to know that they are there to serve, and not to claim allowances and demand vehicles under the guise of needing them to carry out their duties, yet few of them are serving their constituencies let alone going there.
During the campaign trail, MPs were ubiquitous and full of promises: now that they got what they wanted most of them are nowhere to be seen. Many will only resurface during the 2018 pre election period.
If you not in parliament or working in the constituency where are you, what are you doing and who are you representing, pray do tell?!
* A series of children’s books created by Martin Handford. In the series children are challenged to find Wally hidden in a group.