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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 43 - 2011
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
December 15, 2011


After Question and Answer Session, Hon. Brian Tshuma introduced his motion calling for the dismissal of the Clerk of Parliament, Mr. Austin Zvoma, which saw the House degenerating into a mud-slinging contest. The House of Assembly also adopted a motion by Hon. Collin Gwiyo seeking the approval of the House to issue a certificate of immunity to Mr. Lovemore Vambe who was suspended from work by his employer for having appeared before a Committee of Parliament.

House of Assembly Plenary Proceedings:

Debate on the Motion to Dismiss the Clerk of Parliament

Hon. Brian Tshuma (MDC-T Hwange Central) yesterday moved his motion calling for the dismissal of the Clerk of Parliament, Mr. Austin Zvoma. As soon as Hon. Tshuma started debating the motion, Hon. Kudakwashe Bhasikiti (ZANU PF Mwenezi East) raised a point of order to the Speaker arguing that the motion could not be debated in the House as the matter was before the Court.

The MDC-T Chief Whip, Hon. Innocent Gonese, explained to the House the sub-judice principle. He said while Standing Order No. 60(d) did not allow the House to debate matters for which a judicial decision was pending, the aforementioned Standing Rule did not apply to Hon. Tshuma’s motion. Hon. Gonese argued that when Hon. Tshuma gave his notice of the motion on 6 December 2011, nothing regarding the motion was pending in the Courts. He further argued that since Mr. Zvoma sought the court interdict well after Hon. Tshuma’s motion had been brought before the House, the sub-judice principle was null and void. He also argued that the Court had not yet made a determination on the matter and the “court interdict” that Hon. Bhasikiti referred to remained a mere application to the court. For these reasons, Hon. Gonese said Parliament could not be held back from debating the motion and urged the House to guard against setting wrong precedents which had the serious threat of handing over its authority and powers to the other arms of the state, namely; the judiciary and the executive. Hon. Gonese said if parliament allowed this precedent sought by Mr. Zvoma in the Court, Parliament will find it difficult in the future to debate motions which some people were not happy with as they may use such a precedent to muzzle debate on important issues.

Following this argument by Hon. Gonese, the Speaker over-ruled Hon. Bhasikiti’s point of order and allowed Hon. Tshuma to proceed debating his motion. However, Hon. Makhosini Hlongwane (ZANU PF Mberengwa East) immediately raised a point of order requesting that the Speaker should recuse himself since some of the issues raised in the motion made reference to the Speaker. The Speaker over-ruled Hon. Hlongwane’s point order arguing that there was already a precedent in the House set by Hon. Emmerson Mnangagwa when he presided over the motion of privilege against Hon. Roy Bennet, which had been moved by a Member from his party. Be that as it may, the circumstances in the two precedents appear different and Hon. Lovemore Moyo should perhaps have recused himself from the Chair to rid any doubt regarding his perceived conflict of interest on the matter.

Hon. Tshuma prefaced his debate by an argument that his motion should be understood in the wider context of attempting to reform the institution of parliament. However, on the specific accusations on Mr. Zvoma, Hon. Tshuma raised the following;

(i) Failure to conduct elections of the Speaker on 25th August 2008 in accordance to section 39 of the Constitution and Standing Order No. 6 as noted by the Supreme Court Ruling nullifying the afore election.

ii) Unprocedurally and unilaterally deferring the sitting of the House of Assembly on 22nd March 2011,

iii) Disdain for the legal advice from the Attorney General regarding the status of the Matobo North Constituency seat following the Supreme Court's Ruling on the 2008 election of the Speaker of the House of Assembly.

iv) Condescending attitude towards Honorable Members of this August House and in particular, the Office of the Speaker.

v) Issuance of press statements contemptuous of Honourable Members of this House, and:

vi) Tempering with the records of the proceedings of this House by expunging some material from the Hansard of 29 March 2011 without the authority of the House.

Hon. Tshuma said the above-cited examples were serious acts of misdemeanor by a senior officer of parliament which had the effect of tarnishing the image of the institution of parliament. He said parliamentary staff should be guided by institutional values of honesty, respect, professionalism, decorum etc in the manner they discharged their duties in parliament. He alleged that Mr. Zvoma was generally contemptuous to Members of Parliament. He also accused the Clerk of Parliament of making decisions that were not in his domain. For instance he alleged that Mr. Zvoma made a unilateral decision to adjourn Parliament, a decision that is supposed to be done by the House itself. He also cited the issue in which the Clerk of Parliament expunged some material in the Hansard on the proceedings regarding the re-election of the Speaker. Hon. Tshuma argued that the Hansard should be a verbatim record of the proceedings of the House, which should not be tempered with without the authority of the House.

In seconding the motion, Hon. Shepherd Mushonga accused Mr. Zvoma of deliberately manipulating parliamentary procedures for political expediency. He cited the issue regarding the hiving off of Parliamentary Legal Committee’s Adverse Reports from the House of Assembly to the Senate. Hon. Mushonga said the Clerk arrogantly spurned his legal advice and went ahead and transferred Adverse Reports to the Senate. He alleged that the Clerk did this in connivance with the Minister of Youth Development, Indigenization and Empowerment, Hon. Saviour Kasukuwere, in order to fast-track the resolution on an Adverse Report which the Parliamentary Legal Committee had issued on an indigenization Statutory Instrument, requiring mining companies to surrender 51% equity to government within 40 days.

Hon. Tshuma’s motion did not go down well with some ZANU PF Members, notably Hon. Makhosini Hlongwane, Hon. Paul Mangwana and Hon. Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, who argued that the Speaker should recuse himself from the Chair. Hon. Bhasikiti argued that the matter raised by Hon. Tshuma regarding Mr. Zvoma’s failure to conduct the Speaker’s elections which resulted in the Supreme Court nullifying the said elections, benefitted the Speaker. Hence, Hon. Lovemore Moyo was an interested party in the motion and therefore should not preside over the debate on the motion. As indicated above, Hon. Moyo refused to recuse himself.

ZANU PF Members then demanded that the motion should be amended first as proposed by Hon Mushonga during his debate otherwise they would not allow the debate to proceed before the said amendment. During his debate, Hon. Mushonga had proposed the setting up of a 5-Member panel to look into the accusations made by Hon. Tshuma in his motion against the Clerk of Parliament. He said this panel will afford Mr. Zvoma a right of reply.

On the other hand MDC Members argued that there was nothing that stopped them from debating the substantive motion and thus wanted to continue debating the motion yesterday. This plunged the House of Assembly into a stalemate as ZANU PF and MDC Members were bogged down on procedural arguments. As a result, the parties agreed to adjourn debate to today, so as to allow Hon. Mushonga to file his amendment on the motion.

The debate is set to resume today.

Certificate of Immunity to Mr. Lovemore Vambe

Hon. Collin Gwiyo, representing the Portfolio Committee on Public Service Labour and social Welfare moved a motion of privilege seeking the approval of the House to issue a Certificate of Privilege to Mr. Lovemore Vambe in terms of Section 13(1) of the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act [Chapter 2:08]. Mr. Vambe appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Public Service Labour and Social Welfare recently at the invitation of the Committee to give oral evidence regarding the plight of workers at the Willowvale Mazda Motor Industries, where he was employed.

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