AS SAPST commemorates a milestone achievement in the provision of technical and financial support to the Parliaments of Southern Africa in their core functions of executive oversight, law-making and representation, the NewsDay (ND) caught up with the organisation’s director John Makamure (JM) to shed light on their operations. Below are excerpts:
ND: This year we celebrate SAPST’s 10th Anniversary, what thoughts and emotions come to mind when you think about that? Also tell us in general what SAPST is all about. JM: SAPST is into parliamentary strengthening that combines direct technical and financial support to Parliament (capacity building of legislators) and the facilitation of citizen engagement of the legislative branch of government. We work with various like-minded partners such as the Southern Africa Development Community Parliamentary Forum (Sadc PF) that we have a memorandum of understanding with. We have many partners in Zimbabwe, the Sadc region and beyond.
How do I feel? It is quite an emotional feeling. I cannot believe that we are here, after having started as a small organisation narrowly focusing on the Zimbabwe Parliament, and with a very limited Budget. I am excited that the organisation has travelled this far, and that prospects remain bright.
While at times bumpy, the journey that we have travelled has been quite an enjoyable ride. I pay tribute to the staff and board of trustees who have dedicated their precious time and effort to move the organisation forward.
ND: Tell us how the organisation came to being
JM:We started SAPST after realising that Parliament is a central pillar in any democracy, and that Members of Parliament needed to have sufficient capacity in order to effectively execute their constitutional mandate and advance the cause of democracy. And since democracy is about rule by the entire people, we came to the conclusion that increased citizen participation in parliamentary processes should be at the cornerstone of a democratic and effective Parliament.
Regrettably, the majority of our citizens did not have access to their elected representatives and did not understand Parliamentary processes and how to participate in the law making process. So we established SAPST in order to address these challenges.
What we would like to see are strong parliamentary institutions that exercise effective oversight on the actions of the Executive, and a vibrant citizenry that demands accountability on the part of policy makers, including Members of Parliament. This is why we have remained steadfast in supporting initiatives aimed at strengthening the involvement of a wide range of non-state actors and the general public in parliamentary processes.
Let me also say that the Parliament of Zimbabwe has for many years been implementing a reform agenda. We are, therefore, basically supporting this reform programme, which was initiated by Parliament itself.
ND: What were your visions in 2007 and how have you met or even surpassed them?
JM: The vision of the organisation has remained the same since 2007. It is about becoming a leader in strengthening parliaments to be accessible, independent, representative, and effective in their constitutional mandate of law making, executive oversight and representation. While the three are the core functions of Parliament the world over, in Zimbabwe the mandate of Parliament is provided for in section 119 of the Constitution which is that of protecting the Constitution and promoting democratic governance.
Our mission is the provision of technical support to strengthen parliamentary processes and public participation in the legislative process for good governance and accountability. It is mainly our strategic objectives (that) have evolved over time as we embrace important emerging concepts such as gender mainstreaming and a human rights approach to public policy processes.
We remain fully attached to our values in whatever we do. Our staff always strives not to compromise on the key values of integrity, innovation, accountability, transparency, objectivity, professionalism and gender equity and equality.
ND: In what different ways have you grown SAPST over SAPST executive director John Makamure the past 10 years? Tell us about growth in terms of staff, work being done locally and regionally, and areas you are working in.
JM: The organisation has grown remarkably over the years.