According to a recently-released report titled Baseline Survey on Sector Specific Capacity Building Requirements for Committees of Parliament, commissioned by parliament with the assistance of the European Commission and United Nations Development Programme , 65% of the country’s current MPs still require intensive training in legislation and budget analysis. Mathematically, this implies that there are some 35% parliamentarians who have mastered the skills, either because of training received during their term in parliament, or skills acquired before they came into parliament. Another implication here also is that the average parliamentarian needs more than one term in parliament in order to fully digest and master the skills intended by the various training programmes they undergo.
While a lot of donor agencies and private companies have invested a lot of money in training our parliamentarians, the knowledge gained from such training must be utilized for the good of the country. Unfortunately with parliamentarians, the knowledge may be wasted if they fail to win the next election. Where such knowledge is retained in parliament for another five years, it may help develop the country.
The MDC’s sitting candidate confirmation process has been in force since 2005, and was used in the 2005 election. It is a report card to scrutinize what the parliamentarian has done during their term in office, with the candidate addressing questions from the electorate on specific deliverables. Used objectively, it is a process that can help screen out the non-performers, thereby enabling quality representation. The pass mark of two thirds approval by the same electorate that would have been involved in primary elections is a huge vote of confidence, and is democratic. Democracy is all about people making choices for themselves without influence from leadership. In the sitting MP verification process, the electorate can have their questions answered, and then exercise their democratic right to decide on whether the same parliamentarian can represent them in the next parliament. The process is not an imposition of candidates as The Herald and some misguided critics would want people to believe.
The sitting MP confirmation exercise is an even more challenging process than mere primary elections because while the sitting needs a two thirds approval vote to be confirmed, the sitting MP can easily walk back into parliament with a mere 40% vote in a primary election where the first past the post method is used. To illustrate my point, if there were three aspirants contesting to represent the party in a constituency where there is a sitting MP from the MDC, the votes will be shared among four contestants, making it easy for the sitting MP to win even when he has not managed to please two thirds of the electorate during the duration of the past parliament.
What all Zimbabweans should watch out with interest is the level of coverage of this so-called imposition of candidates by The Herald. This Zanu PF mouthpiece has always found fault on anyone opposed to Zanu PF and Mugabe, especially the Morgan Tsvangirai led MDC and its officials.
Zimbabweans from all walks of life, irrespective of the political party they belong to, must therefore always think about quality representation before deciding who should represent them in parliament. Zimbabweans must take time to digest the assertions of Dr. Nhamo Mhiripiri who is quoted in a recent issue of The Herald saying it was critical to understand why the MDC-T decided to confirm sitting candidates without subjecting them to primaries. It would be wasteful to lose a highly performing parliamentarian who should use the confirmation exercise to identify their shortcomings in order to deliver better in the next parliament if elected in the national elections.
The sudden interest in the internal affairs of the MDC by The Herald and its Zanu PF masters gives credence to the speculation that the opposition of the sitting MPs confirmation exercise is a Zanu PF and CIO strategy to cause divisions in the MDC ahead of elections. The MDC must never be deterred by such shallow-minded armchair critics. It should therefore concentrate on their continued effort to improve governance quality.
It may take time for some people to realise the benefits of such a system, but from an economic perspective, given the shrinking resources, it is better to give someone on whom resources have been invested, if they are still popular with the people and successfully account for their previous term in office. Caution, however, should be taken to avoid situations where people like Amai Mujuru have been in parliament for 32 years. The Herald and other critics of the MDC should instead focus their criticism on Zanu PF which has allowed Amai Mujuru and others in Zanu PF to stay for 32 years in parliament when people born 32 years ago qualify to be parliamentarians.
While experience is vital, the MDC should improve its candidate selection process by limiting terms to not more than 15 years in a single position, be it council, parliament or senate.