UNITED Kingdom-based Zimbabwean legal expert Alex Magaisa yesterday said President Robert Mugabe was not under any legal obligation to attend Parliament’s question-and-answer sessions, but could only do so on his own volition.
This came as opposition MPs have accused Speaker of the House of Assembly Jacob Mudenda of shielding Mugabe from being quizzed by legislators during Parliament’s question-and-answer sessions.
Last year, Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya (MDC-T) proposed to move a motion to compel Mugabe to attend the sessions, but Mudenda blocked the move saying it would trivialise the President’s stature. Chikwinya was citing Section 140 (3) of the Constitution which reads: “The President may attend Parliament to answer questions on any issue as may be provided in Standing Orders.”
But Magaisa said the correct interpretation of the law was that Mugabe still had the liberty to turn down the invite.
“He (Mugabe) has that option to say, ‘no’,” Magaisa said.
“Nevertheless, the issue here is not that he has the power to choose, but that Parliament has the power to call him to answer questions. Parliament has this power and it is up to him to accept or refuse. Parliament or in this case, the Speaker, should not be doing the refusing on his behalf,” he said.
Magaisa said the Parliamentary Standing Rules and Orders needed to be amended to ensure they had adequate procedural provisions compelling the President to take questions from backbenchers. He, however, said it would be a good thing to have a Presidential question-and-answer session to enhance accountability by the Executive.