Member of Parliament
- To make laws
- To protect the Constitution and to ensure that all laws are constitutionally compliant and that the government and all institutions and agencies act constitutionally and in the national interest.
- To hold the government accountable (section 119(3) of the Constitution)
- Oversight of State revenues and expenditure, making sure that all revenue is accounted for and expenditure is properly incurred and limits are observed.
- Power to impeach the President
- Stop deployment of armed forces outside the country if two-thirds majority of MPs and Senators agree.
Perception of MP role by voters
- In Zimbabwe, MPs have incorrectly been perceived by the public as constituency development leaders. Constitutional lawyer, Alex Magaisa has said this is partly because of the electoral system which has traditionally been based on constituencies.
"An MP in the National Assembly has a defined physical constituency and population which he or she represents. It is the MP’s source of political authority and influence and in turn it has expectations from its representative. In addition, when candidates campaign to become MPs, they tend to make grand developmental promises to constituents based on specific problems and aspirations in the constituency. The result is that for most people, the core mandate of the MP is development of the constituency. People have real problems: poor schools, food shortages, poor roads, poor medical services, etc and they look to their local representative to solve these problems.
However, the reality is that the MP has no capacity to solve these problems and it is not even their responsibility within the framework of government. One could lobby government to prioritise their area or seek donors to offer help but otherwise they have no fund to attend to these challenges. The authorities that are responsible are central government and the local authority. Both have the powers to collect taxes and therefore have public funds which they can use to fix these challenges. An MP is not legally empowered to raise or collect taxes. The promises that MPs make during election campaigns are beyond their capability which is why most are never delivered."
Tenure of seat of Member of Parliament
According to the Constitution of ZImbabwe, the seat of a Member of Parliament becomes vacant:
- on the dissolution of Parliament;
- upon the Member resigning his or her seat by written notice to the President of the Senate or to the Speaker, as the case may be;
- upon the Member becoming President or a Vice-President;
- upon the Member becoming President of the Senate or Speaker or a member of the otherHouse;
- if the Member ceases to be qualified for registration as a voter;
- if, without leave from the Speaker or the President of the Senate, as the case may be, the Member is absent from the House of which he or she is a member for twenty-one consecutive days on which the House sits, and the House concerned resolves by a vote of at least one-half of its total membership that the seat should become vacant;
- if the Member accepts public office or office as a member of a statutory body, government-controlled entity, provincial or metropolitan council or local authority or employment as an employee of a statutory body, provincial or metropolitan council or local authority;
- if the Member was a public officer or a member or employee of a statutory body, a government-controlled entity, a provincial or metropolitan council or a local authority on the date he or she was declared as a Member of Parliament, and he or she fails to relinquish that office, membership or employment within thirty days after that date;
- if the Member is convicted
- in Zimbabwe of an offence of which breach of trust, dishonesty or physical violence is an essential element; or
- outside Zimbabwe of conduct which, if committed in Zimbabwe, would be an offence of which breach of trust, dishonesty or physical violence is an essential element; and sentenced to imprisonment for six months or more without the option of a fine or without the option of any other non-custodial punishment, unless on appeal the Member’s conviction is set aside or the sentence of imprisonment is reduced to less than six months or a punishment other than imprisonment is substituted;
- if the Member has been declared insolvent under a law in force in Zimbabwe and has not been rehabilitated or discharged, or if the Member has made an assignment under such a law with his or her creditors which has not been rescinded or set aside;
- if the Member has ceased to belong to the political party of which he or she was a member when elected to Parliament and the political party concerned, by written notice to the Speaker or the President of the Senate, as the case may be, has declared that the Member has ceased to belong to it;
- if the Member, not having been a member of a political party when he or she was elected to Parliament, becomes a member of a political party;
- if the Member is certified to be mentally disordered or intellectually handicapped under any law in force in Zimbabwe; or
- if the Member has been convicted of an offence under the Electoral Law and has been declared by the High Court to be disqualified for registration as a voter or from voting at any election.
- Alex Magaisa, Big Saturday Read: Understanding our system of government, Big Saturday Read, Published:7 April 2018, 9 April 2018