Nduduzo Tshuma, Political Editor
NEW Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Retired Major General Happyton Bonyongwe wowed opposition legislators with in-depth responses to questions in the August house as he hit the ground running in his new portfolio.
Impressed opposition Parliamentarians showered him with rare praises following the impressive debut showing.
Rtd Maj Gen Bonyongwe was reassigned from his previous position as Central intelligence Organisation director general when President Mugabe made his cabinet reshuffle last week.
In his maiden question and answer session on Wednesday, legislators mainly from the opposition fired questions at Rtd Maj Gen Bonyongwe mostly around voter registration in what they thought would be a “baptism of fire” on the new minister but he proved more than equal to the task.
In all his responses, the minister, who attained a law degree from the University of Zimbabwe, exhibited an intimate knowledge of his ministry and the country’s laws, citing specific and relevant statutes in his responses and charming the opposition legislators in the process.
Rtd Maj Gen Bonyongwe, contrary to private media reports that he was given a baptism of fire, in some responses, actually corrected some legislators who confused the functions of his ministry and those of other ministries.
There was a moment of mischief when MDC-T Binga North legislator Mr Prince Dubeko Sibanda addressed minister as the DG of the CIO but was quickly put in his place by Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
“Madam Speaker, may I appeal to Hon Members of this august House that in the composition of this House, we do not have the Director of CIO. If there is any need to direct a question relating to the Office of the President, there is no need for the Hon Member to do so in terms of our Rules,” said Acting President Mnangagwa.
“Our Rules provide that we cannot ask questions on individuals or officers of State who are not Members of the House. So, if there is a particular question that the Hon Member is pleased to make, he could put it in writing and refer it to the Office of the President and there will be a member from the Office of the President to deal with the issue appropriately.”
After the clarification by Acting President Mnangagwa, Rtd Maj Gen Bonyongwe then took questions from the floor and carried himself with great aplomb, transitioning smoothly from working privately as CIO DG. Normally hard to please legislators like Norton representative Mr Temba Mliswa, showered Rtd Maj Gen Bonyongwe with praise.
The Norton legislator congratulated Rtd Maj Gen Bonyongwe saying, “You are truly a new broom with the way you have articulated yourself.”
MDC-T Mabvuku-Tafara legislator Mr James Maridadi also impressed by the minister said, “I think it is in order that I would like to proffer my thanks to the newly appointed Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, that he has shown a lot of diligence in the way that he has handled the questions.
“Thank you so much in the way that you have answered questions. I wish your colleagues will take a leaf from you,” said Mr Maridadi.
Presenting his questions to the minister, MDC-T vice president Mr Nelson Chamisa who is also Kuwadzana East legislator said he was happy to be directing his questions to a “learned colleague.”
MDC-T Harare West legislator Ms Jessie Majome who studied at the UZ the same time as Rtd Maj Gen Bonyongwe, also heaped praises on the minister.
“I thank the Hon Minister for the response and may I also just take the opportunity to also congratulate him for being appointed as Minister. I had the privilege of being at the University of Zimbabwe at the same time as him in the law faculty in the 1990s,” she said.