I rushed down to the Chamber to the “debate” on Zimbabwe only to be absolutely appalled but unsurprised to find it is simply an all-party motion to be rubber-stamped and put through this House. I see no precedent for this.
There is a precedent for matters going through this House being rubber-stamped by all parties without debate when they are technical or have been passed by other committees or elsewhere. There is no precedent where issues of a substantial nature have been proposed. This matter requires debate as there is much detail, emotion and passion in this motion.
It is a great achievement to get an all-party motion. I suspect the Department of Foreign Affairs has breathed down someone’s neck and said that the motion should go through but that it does not want people exerting pressure on it or saying things that might exacerbate the situation or cause embarrassment to the Minister. It is not our job to protect the Minister for Foreign Affairs from embarrassment. Our job is to express our views on issues of great importance.
There are very credible organisations, such as Amnesty International and others, that would thoroughly approve of this motion. However, it is incumbent on us to properly debate motions relating to matters of this nature. If the motion is meant to exert pressure on President Thabo Mbeki or President Robert Mugabe, it will not have the desired effect because when these people realise that we merely rubber-stamped it, we will be a laughing stock. The way this matter is being dealt with will prove counter-productive. It would be useful if the Leader agreed to devote time to discussing the motion when we have dealt with our other business. From inquiries I have made, it does not appear the latter will take long to complete.