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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 14 - 2012
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
May 03, 2012


The Privileges Committee resumed its hearings yesterday on the prima facie case of contempt of Parliament brought against the former Administrator of Shabanie Mashava Mines, Mr. Arafas Gwaradzimba. Two witnesses, namely, the Chairman of the Mines Portfolio Committee Hon. Edward Chndori-Chininga and the NewsDay Senior Parliamentary Reporter Veneranda Landa were cross-examined by the defence counsel and the Committee Members.

Cross Examination of Witnesses in the Gwaradzimba Case

In its first meeting, the Privileges Committee resolved to adopt a “jury approach” in its investigation of the matter relating to the alleged contempt of parliament by Mr. Arafas Gwaradzimba, the Shabanie Mashava Mines (SMM) Administrator, who was appointed by government to reconstruct the collapsed company.

The respondent, Mr. Gwaradzimba attended the hearing accompanied by his defence counsel, Mr. Simplisius Chihambakwe.

First to be cross-examined by the defence counsel was the Mines Portfolio Committee Chairman Hon. Edward Chindori-Chininga who argued that Mr. Gwaradzimba’s interview that appeared in the Newsday of 3 March was contemptuous of parliament and defamatory to the Mines Committee Members.

In the aforementioned NewsDay article, Mr. Gwaradzimba was quoted as having said “the work of the committee has been detrimental to our efforts to court investors because they are alarmists and it scares off investors”. In the same article, Mr. Gwaradzimba is alleged to have questioned the integrity of the Mines Committee Members when he said, “... if these MPs are honorable Members...” He also said that the public hearings that the Mines Portfolio Committee conducted at Shabanie and Mashava mines were “irresponsible”. Mr. Gwaradzimba also insinuated that some Mines Committee Members had ulterior moves “than to see SMM survive”.

The Mines Portfolio Committee deemed the above-cited statements to be contemptuous of parliament and also having the effect of undermining the work of the Committee.

However, the defence counsel denied in yesterday’s hearing that the statements were either defamatory to the Committee Members or contemptuous of parliament.

Although Hon. Chindori-Chininga was equal to the task during cross-examination, he made a formal complaint to the Committee that he had not been given adequate time to prepare for the hearing and neither was he informed what kind of information was required, yet the respondent was given all the information in advance and he also had the luxury of a defence team. Hon. Chindori-Chininga’s complaint was somewhat unfairly ruled out of order by the Privileges Committee Chairman, Hon. Paul Mangwana.

The NewsDay Reporter Veneranda Langa stood by her story and disputed the defence counsel’s allegations that the report was inaccurate and sensationalized to sell the paper. In her defence, Ms. Langa said the article in question unlike other news stories was a Question and Answer type of a story. She explained that a question and answer story was published verbatim without any editorials to the content of the story. She further informed the Committee that she was a professional short-hand writer, a skill that she gained when she worked as Hansard reporter at the Parliament of Zimbabwe for more than 10 years. Hence there was no way her story on the Gwaradzimba interview could have been inaccurate.

She further shocked the defence counsel when she read out cellphone text messages from Mr. Gwaradzimba on the interview. In one of the text messages Mr. Gwaradzimba thanked the reporter for the interview and acknowledged the accuracy of the story. The defence counsel objected to the submission of the cellphone text messages as part exhibits. Mr. Chihambakwe argued that the cellphone text messages were one-sided as they only showed in-coming messages from Mr. Gwaradzimba but out-going messages from Ms. Langa were not recorded. The Committee said it will make a decision at a later stage regarding the admissibility of those phone messages. The Committee indicated that it may approach the mobile phone service provider to submit a transcript showing the full conversation between Mr. Gwaradzimba and Ms. Langa.

The hearing will continue next week on Tuesday 8 May 2011 at 1030 hours, where the Committee will cross-examine Mr. Gwaradzimba before wrapping up the investigation.

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