MERCURIAL Hurungwe West legislator, Temba Mliswa, last week tore once more into Joseph Made, the Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation, and Irrigation Development, saying he should immediately resign from his portfolio because he was “incompetent”.
Mliswa made the remarks after a visibly bewildered and jittery Made failed to respond to a barrage of questions directed at him by backbench Members of Parliament in the National Assembly during question time on Wednesday.
The MPs were following up on a question posed by Mliswa, who wanted him to clarify how farm inputs under the presidential farm implements scheme were being distributed to people in different constituencies.
Early last year Mliswa also took on Made accusing him of lying that Zimbabwe would have a bumper harvest in 2014.
Mliswa said Made’s predictions were a fantasy that could result in hunger for a very large number of innocent Zimbabweans.
And indeed Zimbabwe ended up importing maize last year to subsidize local production.
Senator Samuel Sipepa Nkomo shared Mliswa sentiments, and around the same time last year called for Made to resign.
“My honest opinion is that if you want to change the agricultural sector, change the minister,” Nkomo said at the time.
Mliswa’s call for Made to resign last week was reminiscent of previous sentiments.
He had particularly asked Made to explain why MPs were excluded from distributing presidential inputs, yet their primary duty is to represent the people.
The issue has been thorny since Parliament resumed sitting three weeks ago and Made has been escaping censure by absconding the question time.
But there was no shield for him last week as a flurry of questions accompanied by taunts from both ZANU-PF and opposition MDC were directed at Made as he cast his imposing figure at the centre of the August house, occasionally looking this side and the other with MPs feeling he was clueless about the questions.
“It is only known by the District Administrator and the Councillors (how the inputs were distributed) but when there are challenges, they come to me as the MP. Why do we not channel that through the MP? Now councillors are using that as a campaigning tool behind our backs. Why are you channelling that through the councillors and sidelining us?” Mliswa asked.
In his response Made said the inputs were being handled by government officials but there was nothing wrong with MPs getting involved.
Unsatisfied MPs interjected shouting, “Are councillors government officials?”
Mliswa then posed a follow up question asking why Made was saying MPs can get involved in the scheme yet a circular which he sent around the country stated that only councillors and District Administrators were responsible for inputs distribution.
MDC-T MP, James Maridadi (Mabvuku-Tafara), immediately sprung to Mliswa’s defence asking Made to explain why his memorandum excluded MPs.
But instead of answering the question, the minister chose to be combative, setting the house on fire.
“It does not matter how the honourable member (Mliswa) can stand up and say what he is saying, the structure is as it is,” Made shouted as he lost his cool.
But if he had hoped that this could intimidate the MPs into backing down, he was mistaken.
Amid the banging of tables and incessant interjections, backbench MPs were in open revolt over his failure to properly inform the nation.
Lwazi Sibanda (proportional representation), Zwizwai Murisi (Harare Central) and Mliswa himself took turns to pile pressure on him to respond.
Not even his appeal to Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Marble Chinomona who was chairing the session, could save the day for Made as she ordered him to attend to the question.
“I have already responded. I have already answered,” Made insisted.
At that juncture, Mliswa stood up to raise a point of order and, much to the delight of MDC parliamentarians, he shouted; “Made must resign from the ministry. He is very incompetent. He must resign now.”
Chinomona struggled to put the house in order as the house resembled a downtown bar with MPs clapping hands and shouting praises for Mliswa while making all sorts of interjections.
One legislator from the MDC side was heard shouting, “Pamberi naTemba Mliswa, Mash West chairman.”
Mliswa was the ZANU-PF Mashonaland West provincial chairman when he became the first victim of the infamous votes of no confidence that claimed the scalps of eight of his colleagues in the run up to the ruling party’s congress last year.
Amid a sea of commotion, an infuriated Made, refusing to be outdone, shouted back at Mliswa.
“Do not threaten me. You are threatening me. No, you, cannot do that,” he shouted but this only resulted in further heckling.
Chinomona had to order ministers to answer different questions to end the commotion.
Many are of the view that Made is not capable of handling a portfolio considered to be the mainstay of the Zimbabwean economy.