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The fight to join the gravy train begins

by Mathula Lusinga
25 January 2013 | 3483 Views
The debate about the calibre of people to represent us in the next parliament has ensued as talk of elections in Zimbabwe gathers momentum on a daily basis. Although personally, I doubt if elections will be held this year, there are clear signs that both incumbent and aspiring Members of Parliament (MPs)are out in full force, mobilising support to be chosen to represent their respective political parties in the next elections. So the fight is on. For me, rightly or wrongly, this fight seems not to be a legitimate concern to help solve people's problems but instead a contest to join the gravy train. Those aspiring to be in the next parliament want to line their pockets period. A perusal of the Hansard, the verbatim recording of parliamentary debate, reveals little sophistication in terms of discussions in the present parliament.




Do people know what our MPs are doing?
Different countries have different roles for their MPs but the general consensus is that they represent the interests of their respective constituencies. This entails raising issues affecting their constituents and voting on new laws, among other things. In a constituency, an MP is supposed to hold a 'surgery' in his or her office, where local people can pop in to discuss any matter that concerns their constituencies. Generally, MPs are supposed to attend functions, visit schools and businesses and try and meet as many people as possible. This should an enable the MPs to at least have an insight and context into issues they may discuss when they return to parliament. If you speak to members of the public about what their MPs are doing, I bet a majority will say they don't know. It will be interesting to find out how many of our MPs hold surgeries in their communities. Surgeries are supposed to be different from rallies that many of our MPs tend to hold as a way of communicating with constituents. Many people will probably tell you that the fact that Zimbabwe's democracy is immature, there is little or no consultation processes initiated by our MPs in order to reach out to residents regardless of which political party they belong to. You will be told that Zanu-PF MPs talk to Zanu-PF people and the MDCs do the same. The unfortunate part here is that at independence, we inherited a system that was biased to one race and the former ruling party Zanu-PF was happy to continue enhancing biased tendencies that sought to benefit their members only. As a result, MDCs (at least some members) are left with a feeling that their supporters have been suffering for a long time and they must get the priority of benefits in areas they control. This nature of politics is thus threatening efforts to transform our societies towards better representation which in turn, is a powerful tool for community development. People who live in communities with clearly defined lines of communication and engagement between them and their MPs tend to be better developed in all aspects of life. Thus, while we wait for the elections which I doubt will happen while Mugabe is still alive, we need to use this opportunity and time to prepare our communities to elect people who will have them at heart and most importantly, know what they are doing.

What is important?
For me, the most important thing for communities to consider when electing their MPs is whether the aspiring candidate has the right skills that they need to serve communities in a more satisfactory manner. At most a time, the question of what skills are required is a difficult one because we don't seem to have tried and tested examples. An example to look at would be to think of parliament as a business that is tasked to deliver targeted profits, in this case, community development. Successful companies don't just hire people because they are related to the boss or their friends. Instead, they seek to look for different set of skills that will making the company function to meet its targets. This desire for skilled people should not be confused with discrimination but we ought to know that in order for us to live a better life, our MPs must be selected from a pool of people with great leadership and organisational qualities. Today, Zimbabwe is suffering because for many years, Zanu-PF's criteria of selecting MPs have been based on popularity and loyalty to the party leadership. This is why people like Joseph Chinotimba are still influencing national policy direction when in actual fact; they are part of a hired drunken crowd meant to intimidate people towards voting Mugabe. Their actions have served to protect interests of the greedy a Zanu-PF top hierarchy who are looting the country's resources unabated.

Not in Zanu-PF alone
This trend of Chinotimbas is not limited to the Zanu-PF party alone. We all know that some MPs from both MDCs were elected to parliament because of how much noise they can make against Mugabe. Some of them found their way into parliament because of their loyalty to party leadership. This, I say so because as much as we appreciate the work being done by MDCs, some MPs have nothing to show in their communities. They have been in the media for all wrong reasons take for instance the Morgan Femais of this world and those involved in the Community Development Funds Scandal. I am also told some of them have never uttered a word in parliament while others fail to turn up at all. There are disturbing trends developing again, especially in parties where members are said to be unhappy with the party's move to parachute candidates to become MPs, for example some based overseas. I personally believe that there is nothing wrong with overseas candidates but we must understand that despite people's popularities which can help the party win elections, life is very hard as refugees overseas. I am sure some of the said overseas candidates are motivated by benefits and a better life enjoyed by MPs after realising that things are much rosier at home. However, this must not serve a discouraging comment but sometimes we ought to be fair with people who remained at home enduring the pressure and pain while we ran away. There is no doubt things are better at home because when the MDC was formed, some people who are now enjoying benefits as government ministers and MPs were very scared to be part of the struggle but their loyalty has seen them being parachuted to comfort zones.

What parties can do
To help parties select better candidates, I believe parties need to find people which astute leadership qualities which they must demonstrate before they are allowed to contest. Some of the qualities about who should lead us are obvious but I feel there is a need to write about them more often as a reminder for us to demand better things for better days. They include:

• Mission - Aspiring MPs must know what their mission is. They must demonstrate knowledge of why their party and the community they represent exist. They must have a well thought out (often written) mission describing the purpose of their parties. These need not to be sophisticated, but rather descriptive, clear and understandable.

• Vision - They must know where their parties and constituencies want to go? Their vision needs to be abstract enough to encourage people to imagine it but concrete enough for followers to see it, understand it and be willing to climb on board to fulfil it.

• Goal - Aspiring MPs must describe how their presence in parliament is going to achieve their mission and vision for constituencies they will serve and how communities will measure their progress? Like a vision, goals need to be operational; that is specific and measurable. If your output and results can't be readily measured, then it will be difficult to know if you have achieved your purpose. You may have wasted important resources (time, money, people, and equipment)

• Competency - MPs must be seen by stakeholders and the public as being experts in their field or an expert in leadership. Unless their constituents see them as highly credentialed-either by academic degree or with specialized experience and capable of leading their communities to success, it will be more difficult for them to be as respected, admired, or followed.

Other skills include communication, interpersonal skills, a "can do, get it done" attitude, inspiration and ambition. The above skills should not serve as a purpose to intimidate or discriminate against a certain class of the people in communities. It does not matter whether you are a banker, professor, journalist or a village politician who some like to despise. Our history and existence tell us that the human race has been continuing to live with success because of our village politicians who long existed before we got promoted to sophistications of educated leaders. It would then be my advice to make sure that we choose our leaders careful as they are the only critical success ingredient of why we do and believe in politics. Mugabe has shown us his side of doing things and we must strive for difference.

Elections


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