A senior parliamentary reporter at The Herald newspaper in Zimbabwe, Zvamaida Murwira, agrees with the sentiments expressed at the joint sessions of the SADC-PF (Southern African Development Community – Parliamentary Forum) that MPs and the media need to work more closely together.
The Herald newspaper was founded 122 years ago and is the biggest newspaper in Zimbabwe today, with around 266 884 daily readers, of which three quarters are in urban areas. Murwira echoed the view that there is a need for SADC-PF parliamentarians and members of the fourth estate to work more closely so that sexual health reproductive (SRHR) issues, such as teenage pregnancy, unintended pregnancies, HIV/AIDS and cases of abortion are mitigated.
“Parliamentarians, because of their position in society and their oversight role, can be influential in maintaining political pressure on the executive, scrutinising policies and monitoring government health programmes, including ensuring that the executive complies with international protocols that it would have signed,” Murwira told a joint SADC-PF session.
“The media would also come in, reporting on what legislators would be doing in ensuring the promotion of SRHR, HIV/AIDS issues. In this regard, members of parliaments (MPs) can contribute in lobbying the executive to bring appropriate legislation, ensuring that resources are allocated and used in a transparent and accountable manner, ensuring that government-approved priority health interventions are implemented properly and with enough resources, and checking that there is no prejudicial discrimination against any citizen in gaining access to health services,” he further explained.
Thrills and spills
Murirwa said one of the thrills of covering parliament, particularly on SRHR, involved an incident when Zimbabwe parliamentarian Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga surprised everyone, including the two vice presidents, government ministers and fellow backbenchers when she brought a baby into the chamber. Misihairabwi-Mushonga brought the infant in her attempt to demonstrate a point about the plight faced by breastfeeding mothers and the need to put mechanisms in place to cater for nursing mothers.
“The decision was unprecedented in that only legislators are allowed in the chamber in terms of parliament’s standing rules and orders. The MP slipped inside parliament building with the baby without any hassles from the security department before taking her seat in the House. Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and other excited MPs greeted the baby with smiles and handshakes. The baby was quiet and did not create any scene in the House until Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda had completed the usual parliament opening prayer,” he narrated.
Mudenda summoned Misihairabwi-Mushonga to his desk to explain the presence of the baby in the National Assembly. “She said the presence of the baby was to stress a point that parliament was not woman-friendly, as most women legislators in the House were of childbearing age, yet there is nothing in the parliamentary standing rules and orders allowing them to bring their babies for breastfeeding,” reminisced Murirwa.