CLERK of Parliament Austin Zvoma has expressed doubt over the construction of a new Mount Hampden Parliamentary building during the lifetime of the eighth Parliament, exposing government’s failure to expeditiously conclude a Chinese deal that would have made the project a reality.
The new building has been on the cards since independence in 1980. Had it been constructed back then, there would not have space constraints the bicameral Parliament now faces following the expansion of the House of Assembly from 210 to 270 members.
The Senate has 80 members, down from 99 in the last Parliament and, according to Zvoma there are no space constraints in the upper chamber. It is in the National Assembly, which can only accommodate 150 members, where the administration at Parliament is having nightmares.
It might mean that some of the Members of Parliament would be standing along the passage during sessions or sit in the gallery. This would be a huge embarrassment to government which failed to conclude a US$145 million deal with the Chinese for the construction of a new Parliamentary building in Mount Hampden.
At one time, outgoing Finance Minister Tendai Biti and Transport Minister Nicholas Goche embarked on a junket to the Asian giant to plead for funding for 20 government projects following proposals submitted to China Export and Import Bank but the inclusive government has now come to an end with no single stone having been laid.
“Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group (Co. Ltd): The delegation highlighted the importance of having a new Parliament building as the current building had become too small and hence crowded. The Parliament building project as designed by the Government of Zimbabwe amounts to US$145 million,” a statement released by Biti after the visit said.
As it stands, it is clear that the proposed deal would not immediately benefit incoming parliamentarians.
In April 2011, the then Chinese ambassador Xin Shunkang said the project would start soon although indications on the ground pointed otherwise.
“The Chinese government promised to build a new parliament building. By end of this month government will send a delegation to start this project,” Shunkang said two years ago.
On Monday, Zvoma said the current Parliament Building which was converted from a hotel that went bankrupt in the 1890s cannot accommodate the 356 members: All House of Assembly members, senators and the Attorney General who is an ex-officio member.
“The programme for the construction of the Parliament building in Mount Hampden is not driven by us but it’s the responsibility of the executive. We are just clients and we are also waiting in anticipation that in the not too distant future the project will finally take off. I am looking forward to it hopefully to happen maybe before the end of the 8th Parliament,” added Zvoma.
“We are going to have a Parliament made up of 356 members of Parliament comprising of 80 Senators and 276 members of National Assembly,” Zvoma told reporters.
The clerk said the administrative arm of Parliament has proposed the amendment of standing orders to align them with the provisions of the new Constitution. However, the existing standing orders will be issued to new MPs as they remain operational until such a time when new ones have been approved.
Zvoma said the August house is ready for the opening of the 8th session which will take place after the inauguration of the President Robert Mugabe today.
The 8th Parliament is not a hung legislative body after ZANU-PF commanded a majority during the election unlike the situation during the last session where no party controlled a majority in Parliament.
ZANU-PF won 160 seats in the National Assembly while MDC-T secured 49 with a single seat going to an independent.
In Senate ZANU-PF secured 37 seats, with MDC-T and MDC winning 21 and two respectively.
Members will be sworn in by the Clerk of Parliament after which they will have to elect the president of the Senate and deputy as well as the speaker and deputy.
The elections for Parliament’s presiding officers will be done in consultation with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and will be conducted by a secret ballot as stipulated by the Constitution.
The presiding officers will be sworn in by the Chief Justice, which is a constitutional requirement before they can take office.
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