By Elliot Ziwira
There is nothing as despicable as walking out on someone, no matter under what circumstances. Walking out on people says more about the one who walks out, and the way he/she relates with others.
That legislators are human beings is trite, for there really is nothing special about them, seeing that they owe their existence to the largess of the people; their constituents, but that they should find it fit to walk out on the same citizens when it suits them, when bread and butter issues are tabled for discussion, is as deplorable as it is insensitive and hypocritical. When they then go on to clamour for their own welfare, then, this whole idea of democracy becomes a farce.
It gets curious, really curious, when supposed representatives behave like sulking schoolboys in matters of national interest, and expect to be taken seriously.
It is unpardonable for representatives, to walk out of the august House in the middle of a presentation by the President of a nation whose aspirations they purport to represent. That MDC-Alliance legislators could find it appropriate, or even fashionable to walk out of the National Assembly chamber when President Mnangagwa was about to present his State of the Nation Address (SONA) recently, may as well prompt reference to what constitutes parliamentarism.
There is something telling about the behaviour of the opposition Members of Parliament, not so much because of their quest to embarrass the President at every opportunity, even in the remotest of such chances, but their inherent lack of knowledge on the nature of representation bestowed on them, by the same Parliament, whose Standing Rules and Orders they disregard willy-nilly.
President Mnangagwa is the First Citizen of Zimbabwe, and he remains so, by virtue of having won the Presidential elections on July 30, 2018. He, therefore, is constitutionally mandated to lead the nation of Zimbabwe, and guide it out of the challenges he outlined in the SONA that the MDC-A legislators decided not to listen to, for political grandstanding.
Such grandiose exhibition of whimsicality is misplaced in modern politics where representative governments are in vogue the world over through parliamentary representation.
When parliament is made up of divergent voices, debate becomes fruitful, thus giving democracy a chance in shaping the aspirations of a people. It, therefore, follows that a strong parliament is a bedrock of democracy wherein every voice is represented, and amplified even, no matter how inaudible it could otherwise be. Legislators are the voices of their constituents, whose expectations and aspirations they bear and project in the august House; hence, they represent the people. The people are the power behind parliamentarians, whose votes equate to the voice of reason expected in Parliament.
It is every citizen’s constitutional right to seek representation in the Executive or the Legislature, which right should be honoured and upheld in a democratic manner. Such is democracy.
Democracy, as Montesquieu (1689-1755) puts it, functions thus: “As in a country of liberty, every man who is supposed a free agent ought to be own governor; the legislative power should reside in the whole body of the people.
“But since this is impossible in large states, and in small ones is subject to many inconveniences, it is fit the people should transact by their representatives what they cannot transact by themselves” (cited in Held, 2006: 66).
Constituents are the fulcrum of democracy, for legislators derive their power from them, not that they are an important component on their own. No! The MDC-A legislators, who have perfected the curious art of walking out on citizens must be schooled in the functionality of democracy, in a representative system where MPs need the people as much as the masses require agents for their transactions.
They were elected to be representatives of the voice of the people in Parliament, yet they walk out when important issues that affect the masses are being discussed. They cannot purport to be democratic when they exhibit tendencies of tyranny; the tyranny of the minority, perchance, since democracy wears so many faces.
The SONA debacle is not the only incident in which supposed representatives have turned their backs on reason, for collective memory recalls that it has occurred on several occasions. The MDC legislators have been found wanting many a time, when issues to do with citizens’ welfare are raised for discussion. Instead of transacting on behalf of their constituents, they simply make a beeline out of the august House. Yes, they shamelessly walk out, without a care in the world as to the repercussions of their behaviour. They feel that they are accountable to no one, least of all the constituents, who elected them, yet they want to eat on behalf of the same people they disparage.
When others call for dialogue and unity of purpose for the common good of the nation, opposition MDC-A legislators choose to oppose everything as if debate is all about opposing, and when all else fail, they resort to their default mode — walking out. By turning their backs on the people, whose voices are gagged because they remain unarticulated, opposition parliamentarians adduce what has always been known; that politics is rooted in self-interest, and not always the desire to serve the people.
Due to political immaturity, which makes them see foes in fellow citizens, it has become the norm for legislators, especially those from the opposition MDC-A, to find the energy to boo others, who may take their fancy, kindergarten style, nay undress them; never agreeing to anything of national significance. Always raising this issue or that, just to make themselves feel important, like they have all the answers to our suffering, yet they do not want to share the panacea in a mature representative way.
Maybe the Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda, is apt after all, when he rules:
“The behaviour which has been demonstrated by the honourables who walked out when His Excellency the President started to speak shall not be allowed to come back during this sitting today and, accordingly, they will not receive their sitting allowances today, and also I am aware that they put together a pay sheet for the past outstanding sitting allowances for the past five months,” he said.
What a cheek; putting together a pay-sheet to be paid for walking out on the toiling constituents, whose interests they are supposed to represent in the august House!