Misihairabwi-Mushonga’s last dance in Parliament

Misihairabwi-Mushonga’s last dance in Parliament
Misihairabwi-Mushonga’s last dance in Parliament

Proportional Representation legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga who has since been appointed Ambassador to Sweden has done her farewell to the Parliament of Zimbabwe.

In the farewell speech, the seasoned legislator also called on Parliament to consider giving legislators an opportunity to provide a farewell speech.

Legislators when they come to Parliament, they are given an opportunity to deliver a maiden speech but there is no provision for a farewell speech.

Honourable Misihairabwi-Mushonga is one of the longest service opposition legislators in the National Assembly, having entered Parliament in 2000 as legislator for Glen Norah.

The legislator is one of the few that have remained in Parliament despite moving from one faction of the MDC to another.

In her 21-year political career, Misihairabwi-Mushonga got the opportunity to be appointed as Minister of Regional Integration and International Cooperation in the Inclusive government.

Below is the full farewell speech from Honourable Misihairabwi-Mushonga in the National Assembly.

Honourable Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga: I stand on a matter of privilege Mr. Speaker Sir. Let me thank you very much for allowing me to stand in this House most likely and definitely for the last time. I thought I could just say a few words before I leave this home that I have called home for the past 21 years. It would have been unfair if I had just disappeared.

I found it very interesting when I went into the Constitution to look for what happens in circumstances where a Member of Parliament has not lost their seat, where a Member of Parliament has not necessarily been recalled or has not died. Our Constitution does provide for it in 129 (g), but what we have not provided for in this House probably because we have always made an assumption that Members of Parliament will only leave under those three circumstances is that our Standing Rules and Orders provide for a maiden speech but it does not provide for a farewell speech. In circumstances where Members of Parliament have decided to voluntarily leave, we should provide for such in our Standing Rules and Orders.

Having said that, I do not want to take much of your time because it has been a privilege and it is not supposed to be a debate. I just thought that there were a few things that I needed to bring to the House. I came to this House in my late twenties and this House has revolved in an amazing way. I remember coming into this House as only seven female Members of the Opposition; some of them I am glad are here, Hon. Dr Khupe, Hon. Mpariwa, others have now left the House. At the time that we came, relationships were still very difficult in the House. I remember at that time beginning to found what you now call the Women’s Caucus and agreeing within that Women’s Caucus that in spite of our political differences, we would still work together as women that will be representing the House. I will take that memory with me because at that time it was unheard of for an opposition and those that were in the ruling party to be working together.

There are a lot of things that we worked and delivered as a Women’s Caucus; one notable one being the Sexual Offences Act but most importantly, the one on marital rape which we worked with Hon. Chinamasa. We knew that our male colleagues were unlikely to agree to it and decided that we were going to buy them drinks in the bar which has been barred but managed to pass that particular provision in the House. I want to celebrate the women during that time that pushed it. It is now part of our statute.

I am not only saying this because you are on the Chair. The time that you have come in and have become the Speaker, has fundamentally changed the way business is done in the House. Most importantly, allowing some of us to come and raise issues that normally would not have been accepted in this very House. I want to celebrate you and thank you because we found a partner. I personally found a partner on the feminist issues that I strongly believed in. I remember the most important one was when you allowed me to come into this House holding a baby. Yes, I did not stay throughout but you used that as an opportunity to speak to the issues that I think are critical and important. Today, even as we speak in this old Parliament, we now have a room in which mothers who breastfeed can go and breastfeed. I am just disappointed that the women that are in this House have decided that they do not want to use a lot of that and do not want to have babies but indeed, the room is now available.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things I have held very close to my heart in my 21 years have been issues around gender equality.  I know that most of the time when we speak about them, we speak as if there are no males that have supported women and empowered them.  I have examples of men that have supported me and have seen some potential in me, have empowered me and have held my hand.  The first one when I came into this House, like I said before, was Dr. Morgan Tsvangirai; may his soul rest in peace.

I am one of the first women Mr. Speaker Sir, who chaired the now very important and always important Public Accounts Committee.  No woman had ever chaired it and I was appointed to be the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee through Dr. Morgan Tsvangirai.  I then was brought back to the House through Prof. Welshman Ncube.  I want to acknowledge him too because it is him who appointed me, first as the only female negotiator, but most importantly, as a Minister in the GNU that we had and I think I want to celebrate him too.

Mr. Speaker, I now celebrate His Excellency who has appointed me.  Yes, I am here not as a stranger because I still have to sign my contract to accept the appointment.  Those are the three males, not females, that have seen potential initially in a very young woman at the time that Dr. Morgan Tsvangirai appointed me, but also now as I have matured and the President has seen in me, and I know that what you are finding in the social media is questions about ‘this is a person in the opposition’.  I think the very fact that somebody can sit down and decide that I think there is potential in that particular individual and make that appointment should be celebrated.

Like I said Mr. Speaker, Parliament has evolved during the time that I have been here.  There is a time in which in this very Parliament, people who are coming from the region that I have represented were unable to speak in their language.  I am now happy that when we sit here, people can speak in Tonga, Ndebele and Shona.  I celebrate that because at the time that we came, that was not the issue.  I also want to celebrate, in particular the work ethic that has been shown by the staff members of this Parliament.  I am concerned Mr. Speaker, that their remuneration does not probably speak to the amount of work that they do, but in working with this Parliament through the able leadership of the Clerk, I have seen members of staff that have been respectful and diligent and I want to celebrate them because I carry that with me.

What do I leave for Hon. Members and you Mr. Speaker?  What are the things that I hold so dear that I hope will be carried forward?  I leave the women that have been provided for in the Constitutional Amendment (No. 2).  At least I know that whatever happens, there will be 50 young women in 2023 that will be sitting in this House.  I hope Mr. Speaker, that the mature women in the House will be able to hold their hands, will be able to carry them through and that the men in this House who I have also seen evolve and become more respectful and are even speaking about sanitary wear, I hope that when they see these young women coming, those young women will get the same support that some of us got when we came into this House.  Yes, we were heckled perhaps a bit more but I am expecting that what I have seen change in the men that are in this House will create a more facilitative and more comfortable space for the young women that will come to this House.

What still tugs me is education Mr. Speaker.  The past three years that I have been Chairperson of this Portfolio Committee, I carry that with me.  I hope that this House does not stop the agitation around education for our people.  I carry with me a prayer that the Government of Zimbabwe finds the space in which to engage with the teachers because I think the teachers hold the key to this country.  So I hope and pray that as I walk out of this House, teachers and their children will be one of the priorities that we have here.

I have also learnt, as I began to work in education, the importance of inclusiveness particularly for people with disabilities.  So I carry with me a hope that this whole environment and the new Parliament will become disability friendly.  To ensure that happens, you will remember Mr. Speaker, I brought to this House and had asked that we begin to have an oath that is in braille because I think what we do sends a message on our inclusiveness.  I realise that it has taken a bit of time for Parliament to do so.  So I proceeded, as my go away gift, to do braille oath, both the affirmation and the oath and I leave it in this House in case we have somebody who cannot see, who has a disability can then use that in memory of me and what this House has meant to me.

Lastly Mr. Speaker, It would not be me if I do not give something big to the House.  One of the things that I pushed for was the baby room.  I have gone and I have looked at the baby room and I see that for the girls that will come, they may not have a space for the babies to sleep, so I bought this.  It is called a Moses basket. So for the first baby that comes to the House, they will have a place to sleep and I hope the Women’s Caucus will be able to accept this gift and put it in the baby’s house and that it will find its space in the new Parliament building. 

Mr.Speaker, this becomes my good-bye.  I do not want to cry, but yes, I will miss all of you because you have made me become who I am.  I thank you Mr Speaker.