MPs have expressed concern at the whipping system in Parliament where political parties force their members to take certain stances on Bills and motions instead of making their independent decisions.
By VENERANDA LANGA
Speaking at a workshop to discuss a code of conduct, the Parliamentary Immunities and Privileges Act (Pipa), and laws to do with the welfare of MPs, legislators expressed different views over the whipping system.
Nelson Chamisa (MDC-T), who is chairperson of the Parliament Sub-committee on Legal and Procedural Issues, said currently Pipa does not capture the issue of whipping.
“In the proposed new clauses in Pipa we have not captured the issue of whipping and whether MPs should be given the privilege to go against their political party,” Chamisa said.
“Whipping is useful to make sure there is order in Parliament, but when MPs are in Parliament they represent the people, and we need to decide to what extent MPs can be protected against bullying by their political parties through being whipped.”
Buhera West MP Oliver Mandipaka (Zanu PF) said whipping resulted in MPs fearing to exercise their minds.
“We might need whipping because sometimes MPs get out of sync with procedure in Parliament, but the problem is that it suppresses views from the electorate when we are whipped. We need more discussion on whether to do away with the whipping system and decide to what extent MPs can be whipped because it makes us fear to exercise our minds in Parliament,” Mandipaka said.
Senator representing people with disabilities Nyamayabo Mashavakure said section 129 (1) (k) of Pipa which allows for MPs to be whipped must be completely repealed.
“Whipping is unconstitutional and defeats the principle of freedom of expression,” Mashavakure said.
Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda said it would be difficult to do away with whipping of MPs as it was global practice.
“MPs have to subject themselves to whipping. For example, Zanu PF MPs were whipped and they passed the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Bill despite issues raised that it was against labour laws. Unfortunately for them, the President [Robert Mugabe] refused to assent to it saying there was no protection of labour in the SEZ Bill and it came back to Parliament. It vindicates that whipping is not always correct, but is international practice,” Mudenda said.