The European Union Ambassador to Zimbabwe, His Excellency Phillipe Van Damme, launched a programme to “promote public involvement in parliamentary business” on Friday 8 May 2015 at the Rainbow Towers Hotel among other two programmes. The programme is going to be implemented by Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST) throughout the country within a timeframe of 24 months. The Ambassador launched this programme at the same occasion where he launched the Multi-Donor Support Programme to the Parliament of Zimbabwe and the Office of the Auditor General of Zimbabwe, respectively. SAPST was represented at the official launch ceremony by its Executive Director John Makamure. 

The overall objective of this programme is to strengthen citizen voices in public policy issues before Parliament in order to promote good governance. The programme is specifically aimed at promoting public participation, particularly of women, in parliamentary business as well as enhancing knowledge of parliamentary processes and procedures among citizens and also the enhancement of the representative capacity of MPs.

In order to achieve the above-mentioned objectives, the following strategies will be implemented during the course of the programme;

  1. Petitioning of Parliament and Training of CSOs on Parliament Rules and Procedures
  2. Constituency Report Back Meetings
  3. Educating and mobilisation of citizens to attend Public Hearings
  4. Hosting of live radio programme on Parliament
  5. Use of Social Media to disseminate information on Parliamentary business
  6. Printing of copies of Parliament Standing Rules and Orders
  7. Hosting of Speaker’s Quarterly Dialogue Meetings with CSOs and media

The action is designed to provide knowledge, capacity and skills required by citizens, Civil Society Organisations and other stakeholders to engage Members of Parliament with a view to participating in the enactment of good public policies and laws. It is envisaged that this programme will be able to create an interface between legislators and the public.

Parliament is an essential pillar in any democracy. The new Zimbabwe Constitution has vested in Parliament the power to protect the supreme law. Section 119 says Parliament “must protect the Constitution and promote democratic governance in Zimbabwe”. Institutions and agencies of the State and Government at every level are all required by this constitutional provision to act constitutionally, with Parliament providing the oversight role. If properly exercised, vesting the power to protect the Constitution in Parliament provides a useful mechanism to check the excesses of power held by these institutions and agencies and contributes in the deepening of democracy.

The programme is also in sync with the provisions of Section 141 of the Zimbabwe Constitution which, among other things, enjoin the Parliament to “facilitate public involvement in its legislative and other processes and in the process of its committees” as well as ensuring that “interested parties are consulted about Bills being considered by Parliament…”.

Effective civil society and public engagement of Parliament helps to create a democratic Parliament that is accessible, accountable, and transparent in its work and representative of the diversity of the population. Democratic parliamentary processes are a benchmark for an inclusive democratic society.