Mwonzora says Parliament’s Privileges Committee was lazy- did not do its job properly




Douglas Mwonzora

Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai leader Douglas Mwonzora has told the Senate that Parliament should reverse its decision to fine opposition legislators who walked out on President Emmerson Mnangagwa on five occasions when he came to the House because the politics of the country had changed.

He said the Privileges Committee that investigated the case was lazy and its report was incompetently done as it punished everyone including some that did not walk out.

It “puts us back to the iron age of the Zimbabwean politics,” Mwonzora said.

Parliament found 118 Members of Parliament and Senators guilty and asked them to pay fines of at least $800 000 each.

“That verdict finds every person who is a member of the MDC guilty of the same offence.  Those who were there on that day and those who were not there on that day – it finds them all guilty,” Mwonzora said.

“It also finds those (who) were punished by the party for sitting while others walked out – it finds them guilty as well.  There are four people like that in this august House.  There is Hon. Sen. Komichi, Hon. Sen. Dr. Mavetera, Hon. Sen. Makone and myself.  We were punished by the MDC led by Mr. Chamisa for disobeying him and staying in this House.

“Now because this Committee was lazy, it finds everybody guilty and proposes to punish us the same.  That is number one. Number two; the Committee for the first time made a correct finding that the Hon. Members were coerced or forced by a superior authority to them to do what they did.”

Mwonzora said some of the opposition legislators had rebelled against the leadership that had forced them to walk out but they were still being punished.

“Madam President, the Members of the MDC you see here were internally subjected to this cohesion.  They did not sit on their laurels.  They rebelled against that leadership, removed it and placed in a new leadership that has attempted to change the politics of this country,” he said.

“This new leadership has now said we must get rid of the politics of hate, politics of hunger, politics of acrimony, politics of polarisation and replace it with the politics of rational disputation  and tolerance.

“These MPs have been exemplary in their debates.  They have now said what matters to us is not whether this issue came through ZANU-PF or through MDC but what is important is what is in the best interest of the Zimbabwean people.  They have done that.

“They have opposed where it is supposed to be opposed and supported where in their estimation, they were supposed to support.

“What have our colleagues done across the table?  They have proceeded to ignore that and just want to punish including those punished already.”

Full contribution:

ADOPTION OF THE REPORT OF THE PRIVILEGES COMMITTEE INVESTIGATING CASES OF ALLEGED MISCONDUCT BY MDC-ALLIANCE MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT

Fifth Order read: Adjourned debate on motion on the Report of the Privileges Committee Investigating Cases of Alleged Misconduct by MDC Alliance Members of Parliament.

Question again proposed.

HON. SEN. MWONZORA: Thank you very much Madam President. I just have one observation.  We are being called to answer to the allegations after a judgment has been given. I read the verdict by the Committee and it finds everybody guilty….

Cellphone  rung.

THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE:  Order, if I may remind Hon. Senators to switch off or put your cellphones on silent.

HON. SEN. MWONZORA:  There is a verdict that was given by the Committee which was headed by Mr. Samukange.  I take note that Mr. Samukange is a lawyer.  That verdict finds every person who is a member of the MDC guilty of the same offence.  Those who were there on that day and those who were not there on that day – it finds them all guilty.  It also finds those were punished by the party for sitting while others walked out – it finds them guilty as well.  There are four people like that in this august House.  There is Hon. Sen. Komichi, Hon. Sen. Dr. Mavetera, Hon. Sen. Makone and myself.  We were punished by the MDC led by Mr. Chamisa for disobeying him and staying in this House.

Now because this Committee was lazy, it finds everybody guilty and proposes to punish us the same.  That is number one. Number two; the Committee for the first time made a correct finding that the Hon. Members were coerced or forced by a superior authority to them to do what they did. It also found that there had not been any planning involving every Member of Parliament.  It found that there was no Caucus.  Now, where there is a superior authority which makes you do something, there is an automatic defence called obedience to superior authority.  So Mr. Samukange must have known as a lawyer that once he found that there was superior authority that gave people an order, that is a defence on its own but they said nothing about it.  By the way Madam President, when we are in this House, the laws of the country operate.  During the hearing, I brought to the attention of Hon. Samukange and his Committee that I had been punished already by my party and they said Hon. Sen. Mwonzora you can leave because there is no need for you to defend yourself. After this we find ourselves being found as guilty as those people given the chance to defend themselves.  That is gross injustice.

Anyway Madam President, the Members of the MDC you see here were internally subjected to this cohesion.  They did not sit on their laurels.  They rebelled against that leadership, removed it and placed in a new leadership that has attempted to change the politics of this country.  This new leadership has now said we must get rid of the politics of hate, politics of hunger, politics of acrimony, politics of polorisation and replace it with the politics of rational disputation  and tolerance.  These MPs have been exemplary in their debates.  They have now said what matters to us is not whether this issue came through ZANU PF or through MDC but what is important is what is in the best interest of the Zimbabwean people.  They have done that.  They have opposed where it is supposed to be opposed and supported where in their estimation, they were supposed to support.  What have our colleagues done across the table.  They have proceeded to ignore that and just want to punish including those punished already.

Madam President, this country and especially this Parliament has been subjected to some of the worst behaviours ever.  The reason was we had a leadership that did not listen to us and had its own orientation.  We have gotten rid of that leadership.  We have taken a positive stance towards removing the yoke that was on our necks and we have replaced it with another leadership.

Mr. President Sir, Chief Justice Malaba was subjected to ridicule in the National Assembly when he came to swear in the Speaker.  At that point in time, the leader of the opposition in Parliament was Senator Eng. Mudzuri and he was also the Vice President of the MDC.  I was the Secretary General of the MDC at that point in time.  Hon. Sen. Mudzuri and myself went to the Chief Justice and met him together with his Deputy Justice Gwaunza and we apologised for the wrong that had been done.  The Chief Justice forgave us but the example of people who take on responsibility for the bad behaviour of their subordinates and apologise must be encouraged.  It is the whole mark of civilisation.

Now, we want this country to go forward.  We want this country to go forward.  We want this Parliament to start servicing the people of Zimbabwe.  We want the Parliamentarians to start doing those things that they were elected to do and that is to make sure that we improve the lives of the Zimbabwean people.  We the accused here have started the ball rolling.  This persecution now brings us miles back.  We have moved forward and this Parliament must take judicial notice that we have moved forward and that this Samukange report, incompetently done, puts us back to the iron age of the Zimbabwean politics.  I submit with respect that we must be seen as this Parliament to take notice that we have developed and that things have changed as well as to encourage those things.  Therefore we call upon leaders from the other side to take judicial notice of what has happened and let by-gones be by gones unless if of course, as a leader of my party, I was accused and found guilty of insulting the President of Zimbabwe.

Three weeks ago, the same President invited me to accompany him to Victoria Falls for a vaccination programme and I did.  So, there is movement, there is convergence, there is a meeting place between myself as a leader of my group and the President as a leader of his party.  The two are talking together and the effect of this report is to drive us apart.  So, in my respectful view, there is no longer any need for this.

I have already said that the verdict is omnibus.  It also punishes people who were not there. It finds everybody guilty and it comes to – and this one I am addressing it because this will be read by lawyers.  Hon. Samukange and his Committee in coming up with this verdict used what is called the Doctrine of Common Purpose.  This is the doctrine upon which everybody was found guilty and Hon. Samukange said because there was a standing committee that sat and said we are not going to recognise the President, every member of the MDC therefore is guilty.  That is not how the doctrine of common purpose works. The doctrine of common purpose works on people who were part of that meeting and just as in ZANU PF, not every member is a member of the politburo. In the MDC, not every member is a member of the National Standing Committee. So, what this verdict does is that it punished even those people who did not sit in that meeting. That is not how the doctrine of common purpose works and at any rate, the doctrine of common purpose works only in criminal cases. There was no crime and it does not work in misconduct.

This, at most will be a misconduct. This, at most is a discourtesy and therefore, the doctrine of common purpose was incompetently applied. In my respectful view, and I am glad that we have traditional leaders led by Hon. Sen. Chief Charumbira and I take notice of things that he said on two occasions in this House. The encouragement he felt at the change of the politics of Zimbabwe. The encouragement he felt at the sense of responsibility displayed by MDC T legislators. What this report does is that it ignores all that.

I therefore submit, with respect, that there is another important thing – our law says a person cannot be punished twice for the same offence. So, if I steal and I am put in jail for three months, when I get out you do not try me for the same offence and sentence me to six months. When I come out again, you sentence me. The Speaker of Parliament sentenced us already and each one of us had monies deducted before the Samkange Commission sat. We had monies deducted already for the same offence. We complained and we were not heard.

After deducting our monies for that offence, the Samkange Commission comes and says that is not enough – it seeks to take away the diplomatic passports, creating discrimination among MPs.  MPs doing the same work, ranking the same – one is a diplomat and one is not. They are travelling together to Geneva for the same thing. Maybe one is even a Chairperson and one is not, but they get into two different queues. That is some form of black apartheid that this thing introduces. There is no need for that. The point is that we were punished and we served our punishment because our money was taken.

Mr. President Sir, this Parliament especially this Senate, must come to a conclusion of fact that was not known to others and that is with the technology introduced. If the President is in the National Assembly and I am not in the National Assembly and I am in another room and I walk out of that room, have I walked out of the National Assembly, have I walked out on the President? You are in this Chamber and you walk or you are watching the proceedings from your gadget in your hotel and you walk out of that hotel room – have you walked out on the President? We must come to a conclusion, we must define the law but it was no defined.

In my respectful view, when I am not in the same room with the President, I am incapable of disrespecting him by walking out of the room in which he is not. When punishing the Hon. Senators, that is what this verdict does but more importantly, this verdict deals with Senators walking out during a budget. Our law is clear. The budget is presented to the National Assembly and not to the Senate. Now when the Senators do not come on the day of the budget, they are not committing any misconduct.

I just want to conclude by saying we beg this House mostly the legislators on the other side that a good case has been made of the dramatic change of politics in our country. A good case has been made that maybe it is time to let bygones be bygones. The fines that are proposed are beyond the reach of the MPs. I think it is about Z$400 000. The taking of the diplomatic passport is a humiliation which is not necessary. Therefore, I pray that this report while it may be acknowledged must end where it is and it must not be carried into action. In fact, this report must be thrown out. Thank you.

HON. SEN. CHIEF CHARUMBIRA: Thank you Mr. President. I should say I am humbled and I would like to say with your permission and permission from all Hon. Senators, can we defer this debate so that we do not spoil what we have built to date. Let us defer this debate and have serious consultations and it can be back on the Order Paper.  Thank you.

HON. SEN. MUZENDA: I second.

HON. SEN. MUZENDA: Mr. P resident Sir, I move that the debate do now adjourn.

HON. SEN. MOHADI: I second.

Source: The Insider