‘Monkeys and Baboons’: What did Shiri actually say

Perence Shiri

Remarks made by Agriculture minister Perence Shiri, during a Parliamentary debate on July 31, have been widely shared and have raised controversy.  

Under the headline “MDC MPs monkeys, baboons: Minister”, NewsDay reported: “Chaos reigned supreme in Parliament yesterday after Agriculture, Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri described MDC MPs as ‘baboons and monkeys’ for seeking answers on the missing $3 billion agricultural funds, forcing the sitting of the National Assembly to be adjourned prematurely”.

NewsDay quotes Shiri as saying: “I can’t be talking to monkeys and baboons.”

Open Parly, an online platform that monitors parliamentary debates, tweeted: “Parliament adjourned after Min. of Agric referred to MPs as Monkeys & Baboons”.

The Daily News also reported that Shiri “had labelled MDC legislators ‘baboons and monkeys’ after rejecting allegations US$3 billion allocated to the controversial Command Agriculture programme between 2017 and 2018 was stolen”.

While NewsDay quoted Shiri as saying “I can’t be talking to monkeys and baboons”, Daily News quoted him as saying: “I am not addressing baboons and monkeys”.

So, what did Shiri exactly say?

Below is an excerpt from the session, according to the Hansard, the official record of Parliament’s proceedings which transcribes from audio recordings of debates:

HON. SEN. RTD. AIR CHIEF MARSHAL SHIRI:  Mr. Speaker Sir, I am not addressing baboons and monkeys. I am addressing people who are supposed to listen when I am responding. If they want me to respond and they want an answer, they have to give me a chance to respond. Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] –

The official Hansard record shows that Shiri’s stated intention was to insult MPs who were heckling him.

While both the NewsDay and Daily News truncated direct quotations on what Shiri said are incomplete and therefore potentially misleading, the two newspapers’ interpretation of the minister’s statement is in line with his intention to insult his hecklers.

On Thursday, 1 August 2019, Shiri withdrew his statement.