While others slept, parliamentarians toiled

AARON Mwewa.

JOHN Calvin Coolidge Jr, the 30th President of the United States, once said, “All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.” Coolidge was famous for being a man of few, but well-chosen, words.
Having followed with keen interest this year’s sitting of Parliament, I saw the truthfulness of the words Coolidge uttered so many years ago, in the sense that parliamentarians spent more hours in the Chamber when compared to last year, which enabled them to transact more business.
This year, the House sat for 93 days or eight more days than last year. What was the result? It considered 786 questions for oral and written answer, 60 ministerial statements on a number of key national issues and two private members’ motions. In comparison, in 2017, it dealt with 378 questions for oral and written answer, 88 ministerial statements and five private members’ motions. The questions are asked to a minister or the Vice-President on public affairs which the minister or Vice-President is officially connected. The reduction in the number of ministerial statements was due to the fact that most of the critical national issues were adequately addressed through the questions.
Transacting all the business that Parliament considered this year was not an easy task, especially given the fact that this was a sitting in which the national budget also had to be approved. The parliamentarians had to be in the Chamber longer than usual in order to complete the business they needed to deal with on particular days. This meant that Standing Orders 20, 21, 22 and 100 had to be suspended to make it possible for the House to sit from 09:00 hours until all the business of a particular day had been transacted, starting from Tuesday, December 4 to Friday, December 14, 2018.
In moving the motion to suspend the standing orders on November 30, 2018, the chief whip and acting leader of government business, Mr Steven Chungu argued that the 2019 national budget needed to be approved before the House went on the Christmas recess. He further said that objective could not be met within the remaining sitting time of the House, considering the amount of business that was still outstanding. The motion was passed, leading to the House sitting from 09:00 hours to 21:00 hours on some days.
In the end, the House successfully approved Supplementary Estimates of Expenditures number 1 and 2 of 2018, and the 2019 budget. It also considered 29 motions to adopt reports of various standing and select committees and 75 annual reports of government and quasi-government institutions.
In the same sitting, the House welcomed five new members following by-elections in Kasenengwa, Chilanga and Mangango constituencies, and the nomination of two members by His Excellency the President. Mr Lucky Mulusa and Mr Felix Mutati were replaced by Mrs Mumbi Phiri and Mr Raphael Nakachinda. On a sad note, the House lost three members, for Kasenengwa, Mangango and Sesheke constituencies.
In priming the parliamentarians for the hard work ahead of them when he officially opened the Third Session of the Twelfth National Assembly on September 14, 2018, President Edgar Lungu urged the House to always remember that the hopes of the nation rested on their work.
“We have the greatest power in our land; the power to determine the destiny of our country, and translate the dreams and hopes of our people into reality; the reality of food on the table of each household, and healthcare and education on the doorstep of every community in a vibrant economy with a place in it for everyone. Yes, we, the people in this House, are the hope of our people,” he said.
In his concluding remarks, the President stated:
“We strive towards achieving the Vision 2030, we must not forget the importance of good morals and ethics. Let us renew our pledge to uphold our national values and principles for a better Zambia. Let us build a Zambia that will leave a lasting mark on the world. Further, in all our endeavours, we must look to God our Creator for wisdom, guidance and strength as we execute our development plans. Together, with a positive attitude, we shall succeed. Together, with a positive work culture, we must progress. Together, with a positive approach, we will strive to achieve.”
Building on the President’s remarks in her first budget presentation on September 28, 2018, after taking over the Ministry of Finance from Mr Felix Mutati, Mrs Margaret Mwanakatwe began her address by emphasising that Zambia would remain a Christian nation whose values, principles and ethics in all aspects of life are anchored on its covenant with God. She stated that the values would always be maintained and mainstreamed in the country’s policies and national development plans to guide people’s attitudes and aspirations.
Mrs Mwanakatwe concluded her address by stating:
“I wish to echo the theme of His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s Address to this august House two weeks ago. The President’s clarion call was for all Zambians to commit themselves to ‘working together to achieve Vision 2030’.
We have a legitimate stake in this country, and we must all work together, as a united people, to make the Vision 2030 a reality. I have no doubt about our capacity, as a people, to work together, take resolute actions and make courageous decisions required to meet our challenges,” said Mrs Mwanakatwe.
Getting work done as the country pursues its ambitious development agenda, such as the Vision 2030, will not be easy. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put it, “The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained in sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upwards in the night.”
Today, the people’s representatives, the parliamentarians, can rest well and interact with their constituents knowing that when they were called upon to go the extra mile, they proved to be equal to the task. It is as if they took heed of Henry Kissinger’s words: “The task of the leader is to get their people from where they are to where they have not been.” This might require the leaders having to work late into the still of the night.
The author is a communication for development specialist.

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