By Lance Guma
26 October 2011
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has told Parliament that the issue of gay rights “is an elitist debate meant to divert attention from the problems affecting poor people in Zimbabwe.”
Fielding questions from MP’s in the first ever Prime Minister’s Question Time since 1988, Tsvangirai said the people were writing a new constitution and they would define what sort of society they wanted to live in.
The historic session saw both MP’s from the three political parties in parliament get an opportunity to ask the Prime Minister questions on what the government was doing. Tsvangirai got the ball rolling by telling the MP’s the session was not a ‘war situation’ were party rivalries would be settled.
The debate over gay rights surprisingly came from Tsvangirai’s own party with MDC-T MP for Bulawayo Central Dorcas Sibanda, asking whether the PM was advocating for gay rights in the constitution. There was wild laughter when Tsvangirai said “perhaps I am speaking here kuda mumwe musi mungangodai muringochani panapa- we may be talking while some of you may be gays here. What you do in your private sphere is your private problem.”
Tsvangirai also addressed issues on empowerment, political violence, media reforms and developments in Libya. The session was poorly attended by ZANU PF MP’s.
Responding to questions on the controversial manner in which the empowerment agenda was being pushed through Tsvangirai said there was a need “to promote, not damage investment in the country” adding that the idea was “not to share a small cake but to grow the cake that people are able to share. We need to create wealth through the creation of funds so that the people are able to benefit,” he said.
Tsvangirai also had a dig at Zimpapers Talk Radio for trying to muscle into the broadcasting field by applying for a commercial radio licence when they were already dominating the print media. Responding to a question from Mutare Central MP and the MDC-T chief whip in Parliamen, Innocent Gonese, who wanted clarification on the government’s position on media reforms, Tsvangirai said:
“One would be forgiven to think that there are two governments in Zimbabwe. There is need for multiple media space not a situation where newspapers want to go into radio broadcasting. Without media space, you cannot speak on democracy.”
He also said the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) board needed to be reconstituted, as had already been agreed.
The Prime Minister also touched on the continuing political violence countrywide, saying the police needed to be unbiased and weed it out. He gave the example of the violence which rocked Parliament a few months ago and said the perpetrators have still not been arrested. Tsvangirai urged the three main political parties to play a leading role in stamping out political violence.
He bemoaned the poor performance of parastatals like Air Zimbabwe, arguing they were a drain on state resources. Government recently committed itself to taking on Air Zimbabwe’s US$140 million debt and Tsvangirai said: “There is no sense of responsibility among the board members because they feel it belongs to the government and they don’t care if they make a loss.”
Turning to Libya, he said there was now a need to recognise the National Transitional Council which deposed long time dictator Muammar Gaddafi, a position that was in line with that taken by the African Union.