WHERE DID WE GO WRONG?

By Magari Mandebvu
We were mistaken about the job of our Members of Parliament.

Way back when we still had some confidence in parliament, we used to see letters in the newspapers praising or criticising particular MPs according to whether or not they were ‘bringing development’ to their constituencies.

That seems strange because, just as we are our own liberators, we are our own developers. Nobody can give us freedom. Nobody can give us development. But we might expect our representatives to help us get the resources that help us develop ourselves.

The represent us, yes. But we shouldn’t send them to parliament just to bring gifts down to us.  Their main job, in a real democracy, is to be our voice ‘up there’, not as beggars, but as citizens who can say how we want to be governed. A beggar has to admit that the person he is begging from has all the power. S/he can give or not, as s/he decides. A clever beggar may be able to persuade the giver, but only as long as the giver still believes that he is in charge and is giving freely. That is not how we should relate to government.

We should be giving them orders, not requests. When we realise that, we will see that bringing things down to us is a small part of their job. If every constituency ordered their MP to bring them a new road, schools and clinics, the Minister of Finance might, quite rightly, reply: ‘You want 3000 schools: we have money to build 500 this year.’ But we should be convinced that if we have to wait, that is because someone else’s need is more urgent. We can’t simply give orders and expect them to be obeyed immediately. But in more important areas, we can do that.

If we need new laws, we have a right to demand that our MP does his or her best to deliver them. If we, whether in Mudzi or Mount Pleasant, want something that most of the country don’t feel is important, we won’t get it. But our MP should obey our orders and do his or her very best to put our arguments to parliament. Then if our argument is rejected, we know the majority didn’t agree with us, and why they disagreed. We must accept that, although we can give orders to our member of parliament and expect him or her to obey us, we cannot order all our fellow citizens in the whole country to do just what we want.

On the other hand, when we send our MP to make us a new law, s/he may be suggesting something that others do want, even if they hadn’t thought it out as we have. Then we get an improved law. But if we don’t make our MP our voice in national decision making, ‘Mwana asingachemi anofira mumbereko’ so our democracy dies.  

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