CHAIRPERSON of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice Misheck Mataranyika has said the whipping system in Parliament must be repealed from Parliamentary Standing Rules and Orders because it stifles open debate and reduces debate on important Bills and motions to partisan stances by MPs.
Addressing delegates on Thursday last week in Kariba at an ActionAid stakeholders’ workshop on the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, Mataranyika, who is also MP for Makoni South (Zanu PF) said Parliament is a place where debate must be robust and free for MPs in order for them to effectively play their legislative roles.
The whipping system is practiced by Parliaments when passing or amending laws or debating a motion where MPs are “whipped” or instructed by their political parties to follow a certain line of debate. It can compromise the quality of Bills and motions debated in Parliament.
“Personally, I feel that the whipping system is very deterrent on MPs because legislators always have to be mindful of their political party’s positions, which is also contrary to their other role as representatives of the people,” Mataranyika said.
“I would prefer that the whipping system be repealed because it affects open debate and, as MPs, we are between a rock and a hard surface when it comes to the whipping system because we are not free to debate contrary to political party positions,” he said.
On the issue of recall of those MPs that do not play their mandate well, Mataranyika said the Constitution already has a clause which provides for a political party to recall an MP who no longer serves their interests.
He said section 129 (1) (k) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe stipulates that MPs can be expelled “if the MP has ceased to belong to the political party of which he or she was a member when elected to Parliament and the political party concerned, by written notice to the Speaker or the President of the Senate, as the case may be, has declared that the MP has ceased to belong to it”.
Mataranyika said at the moment, there was no provision in the Constitution for voters to recall their MP if he or she is not performing.
In terms of compliance to the principles in ACDEG, Mataranyika said Zimbabwe was in the process of aligning a gamut of laws to the Constitution, adding that his committee was seized with conducting public hearings on several pieces of legislation.
Some of the laws that are before Parliament include the Marriages Bill, the Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill (Mopa) and several media related laws which include the Freedom of Information Bill to replace the oppressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Mataranyika said the Parliamentary Legal Committee was also playing its role well in ensuring that good laws were passed, and recently they produced an adverse report on some of Mopa’s provisions deemed unconstitutional.