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Decolonise Zimbabwe Parliament

07 Jun 2020 at 08:18hrs | Views
The commencement of every session of Parliament is marked by a rather banal exercise.

In each day that the House is sitting, the Sergeant at Arms walks into the House with a silver-gilt ornamental club, the mace.

With this colonial relic in hand, he walks at the head of the Speaker's procession.

All members rise as a mark of respect to the Speaker's office as the procession enters the House. The mace is then placed on the table of the House symbolising the commencement of business.

The mace in Parliament is the symbol of royal authority (read the Queen's authority) and without it, the House cannot meet or pass laws.

Last week, Musikavanhu National Assembly representative Mr Joshua Murire made a pertinent contribution questioning the continued observation of the tedious colonial ritual whenever the House sits.

"Whenever you walk in here, we all rise in respect of Mr Speaker's office," he said.

"In front to alert us to stand is the Sergeant at Arms and he will be holding the mace whose head signifies the Queen.

"It is now 40 years after independence — to me it will look like we are respecting the Queen and we stand up in respect of the Queen represented herein by Mr Speaker."

It has been several decades now since Britain relinquished its last vestiges of territory on the continent, but remnants of colonialism still remain with us to this day.

Some of our key institutions of governance remain entrapped by colonial traditions and mannerisms, much to the detriment of complete decolonisation.

Despite attempts in the recent past to unshackle Parliament from colonial remnants, including changing the decorative aesthetics and Speaker's garbs, enough has still not been done.

Aesthetically, the National Assembly is still pretty much a copy and paste job of the British House of Commons.

We still have the Finance Minister stand in front of the plaque at the entrance of Parliament for a photo-op whenever he presents a Budget, pretty much in the same manner his British counterpart does.

Generally, the conduct of business in the House is largely analogous to how it is done in the House of Commons. At the centre of this colonial hangover is the aforementioned mace ritual.

It is not in doubt that the colonial system used the law as an instrument to entrench repression and violate the rights of natives.

One, therefore, wonders why we still maintain these traditions that are only a reminder of the violations our people suffered at the hand of colonialists.

It is not only Parliament that is afflicted by this hangover. The courts have also maintained irrelevant colonial traditions.

Tradition forces our judges and senior lawyers to don revolting white wigs made of horsehair along with robes.

Judges are also referred to as "My Lord" and "My Lady". What better way of entrenching the colonial legacy than capturing the two key institutions responsible for making laws and dispensing justice.

The relocation of Parliament to the new building currently under construction should not only be symbolic.

It should come with a marked elimination of all colonial relics and traditions.

The mace ritual alongside many other colonial customs should not see the light of day again. Parliament should come up with home-grown ways of conducting business, which is reflective of Zimbabwe's national identity.

Speaker Advocate Jacob Mudenda said as much in response to Mr Murire's observation.

"May I inform you that the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders has assigned the Committee on Cultural Affairs and Heritage led by chief whip Hon (Pupurai) Togarepi   is working on the design and other artefacts that need to decorate our Parliament and cut, therefore, the umbilical cord from the colonial era," said Adv Mudenda.

"His committee has gone further to say that the dress code of the presiding officers and their assistants will need to be redesigned in order to reflect our national identity."

Others have done it before us, and there is no reason why we should not.

Source - sundaynews
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