THE MDC parliamentarians would like to set the record straight and correct certain misconceptions and innuendos that have arisen following the Budget presentation on Thursday, where we were not in attendance due to genuine issues that had been highlighted to the Speaker of the National Assembly, but which he decided not to disclose for reasons best known to himself.

Innocent Gonese,MDC secretary for Justice and Legal Affairs

For the record, the budget presentation is technically called in terms of Section 305 of the Constitution a statement of the estimated revenues and expenditures of the government in the next financial year, which must be presented to the National Assembly in the timeliness prescribed by the relevant section.

At this stage, it is merely a proposal and there is no debate on the date of presentation.

In fact, a post budget seminar is then held followed by committee consultations and these processes are usually held the following week after the presentation.

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Traditionally, this has always been a ceremonial event that some Members of Parliament have chosen not to attend across the political divide, as one can equally follow it from the comfort of their homes and, in fact, due to space constraints members of the Senate follow proceedings from TV monitors placed in the chamber.

There has never been any issue about the non-attendance of anyone and it is in this context that the people of Zimbabwe must understand that the grandstanding in the National Assembly was motivated by reasons other than the purported disdain of proceedings by the genuine representatives of the people who are the MDC.

The truth of the matter is that we did not shortchange the electorate in any way, more particularly, because we had genuine reasons attending to the funeral of members of the party from Mashonaland East, who were involved in an accident.

The Speaker of the National Assembly was informed in writing by the Leader of the Opposition Tabitha Khumalo of the unavailability of the MDC parliamentarians and if he had any honour, he should have disclosed to the House and the nation at large that he was in receipt of such communication notwithstanding his misguided belief that he has power to decide and direct what members of a political party should do.

What is also critical to understand is that Members of Parliament are not compelled to attend any particular sitting and, in fact, there is no requirement to seek any prior approval and the letter was merely written as a matter of courtesy. It’s only if one misses 21 consecutive sittings without prior approval of the presiding officer that the relevant House can proceed to make a resolution to declare the seat vacant as provided for in terms of Section 129(f)of the Constitution.

If anything, the Speaker is guilty of double standards as he has not shown the same enthusiasm to deal with errant ministers, who violate the peremptory provisions of Section 107, which compel them to attend Parliament to answer questions and in their case the Standing Orders actually provide for contempt charges to be brought against them in terms of Standing Order No 63 of the National Assembly.

The hypocrisy and machinations of the Zanu PF chief whip Pupurai Togarepi, who never says anything meaningful in Parliament is exposed as he has never stood up for the institution of Parliament when ministers, who not only flagrantly breach constitutional provisions, but also our own rules which are sacrosanct and must be binding as the Bible is on us Christians.

We reiterate that there is no provision in either the Constitution or our rules which require the compulsory attendance of the Members of Parliament, but such rules exist for ministers. But as the people’s representatives, we acquitted ourselves very well at the processes prior to the presentation of the Budget and we will be articulating the people’s concerns using the subsequent processes.