17 March 2014

Zimbabwe: Latest - MPs Connive to Boycott House

Photo: Parliament of Zimbabwe
Parliament of Zimbabwe

SOME National Assembly members from Zanu-PF and MDC-T have allegedly connived to boycott debates in the House to protest Speaker Jacob Mudenda's position that they must not make unsubstantiated claims under the guise of parliamentary priviledges.

The House last sat on Tuesday last week with only two legislators contributing to debate on President Mugabe's speech.

The sitting adjourned after about an hour.

Mudenda has already clarified that he did not gag the MPs, but only demanded that they must be factual when debating.

A fortnight ago, Mudenda warned legislators who made unsubstantiated remarks against fellow MPs, Parliament officials and members of the public that they risked contempt of Parliament charges.

He repeated the warning on last Tuesday.

Zanu-PF chief whip Joram Gumbo said no legislator from his party would be allowed to boycott the debates.

"The Speaker has not gagged anyone," he said. "All he has asked for is that MPs must first research before coming to Parliament and not make unsubstantiated allegations hiding behind parliamentary privileges.

"Zanu-PF MPs will not boycott debates. If any one of them wants to do that they can as well go home. Why should they boycott if they have been asked to speak the truth that they swore to?

"Besides, nobody in the party has ever approached me to call for a caucus to deliberate claims that the Speaker has gagged them," he said.

His MDC-T counterpart, Innocent Gonese, also professed ignorance of the conspiracy.

"I do not know anything about that," he said.

But MPs who spoke to The Herald on condition of anonymity said they had made a pact not to debate.

"We want to drive a point home that we are not happy. The Speaker seeks to control content of the debate too much," said one long serving MP.

"He should be encouraging us to speak out. It is the first time in the history of this Parliament that we have MPs being threatened over what they say in the House."

Another added: "All the MPs want to speak out about corruption because we are people's representatives. We speak on their behalf, so why should we be threatened for saying what our constituents want?

"It is the reason MPs were reluctant to debate on Tuesday, hence the House adjourned early. All we are asking is that the Speaker allows us to speak out without fear of being charged with contempt."

However, another MP said he was unaware of the conspiracy.

"MPs from both Zanu-PF and the opposition agree that corruption is bad," said the MP.

"That is why everyone wants to talk about it. But I have not heard about the collusion. What is important is for us as MPs to bring it up with the Speaker through our chief whips.

"We could have a joint Caucus to deliberate over it so that our whips can raise it with the Speaker. We cannot claim that the Speaker is out of order by demanding that we should not abuse our priviledges."

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