BY VENERANDA LANGA
THERE was drama in the National Assembly yesterday, which resulted in Zengeza West MP Job Sikhala (MDC Alliance) losing his temper and angrily labelling the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda “a dictator”, adding that he was “turning Parliament into a kangaroo House” due to his rulings which were against opposition legislators.
Tempers flared after Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and the Speaker barred main opposition MDC legislators from asking ministers questions relating to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s State of the Nation Address (Sona).
They said opposition MPs could not debate Mnangagwa’s Sona since they boycotted the address early this month.
What triggered the melee was when Proportional Representation MP Jasmine Toffa (MDC Alliance) asked Public Service minister Sekai Nzenza why the aged, sick and other vulnerable people were asked to pay for transport in order to receive food aid.
Instead of Nzenza responding to the question, Ziyambi interjected and said: “In terms of our Constitution, there is a Cabinet appointed by the President with a collective responsibility. In terms of the same Constitution, there is a Legislature constituting of MPs and the President who appointed Cabinet. If they (MDC) do not recognise the President, then they cannot extend a question and expect an answer from a minister appointed by the President.”
Mudenda then buttressed Ziyambi’s points and he ruled that the Justice minister’s assertions would stand and Zanu PF MPs cheered.
Norton MP Temba Mliswa (Independent) then tried to stand with the MDC legislators, saying that they had already been punished enough after the Speaker ruled last month that they would lose five months’ allowances for snubbing Mnangagwa. Mudenda ignored Mliswa’s point of order.
The Speaker ordered Toffa out of the House, and when she refused, Mudenda then sent the seargeant-at-arms Nicholas Marufu to eject her out of the chamber.
MDC MPs then cordoned off Toffa and vowed that she would not go out as they challenged the Speaker and Ziyambi’s ruling barring them from participating during question-and-answer sessions.
Police stationed at Parliament Building were then unleashed on the MDC legislators to forcefully eject Toffa, but she was heavily cordoned off by her colleagues, who also shouted at the police telling them that they were not allowed inside Parliament and must leave. The police then left after noticing that the situation might result in ugly scenes.
Seeing that the Speaker would not budge, Sikhala became highly emotional and he started shouting at the Speaker after he tried to raise a point of order and was denied.
“Having shown that you do not want to hold this institution as a democracy, you have reduced this Parliament to a kangaroo Parliament. I and my MPs tried to raise a point of order on the constitutionality of your ruling, but you have denied us. As a result, I withdraw my sympathy for you for what happened to you when you were eating ice cream (in Serbia). You are turning this institution into a dictatorial institution,” Sikhala charged.
“You are torturing our MPs on a daily basis. It is not allowed. Why are you abusing us? We are not kids.”
In Serbia, Mudenda was accosted while dining by a ZimEye journalist, who accused him of being undemocratic and asking him why he cut allowances for MDC legislators for snubbing the President.
Mudenda warned Sikhala to respect his authority as the chair, but Sikhala dug in.
“I used to have huge respect for you, but today, that honour has reduced to a quarter. You have disappointed me Mr Speaker.”
Mudenda responded: “I cannot accept to be challenged by an MP. I ask you to leave the House.”
Sikhala then cooled down and apologised to Mudenda and later he left, leaving Mutare Central MP Innocent Gonese to challenge the Speaker demanding constitutional clarity as to the basis of his ruling to bar the opposition from asking questions.
Gonese demanded that the Speaker explains the implication as to whether this would mean that the opposition MPs were now barred from debating motions and Bills before Parliament.
Mudenda refused to respond to him and he ruled that the opposition chief whip Prosper Mutseyami and Zanu PF chief whip Pupurai Togarepi had reached an agreement over the issue,
which Mutseyami was supposed to communicate to the opposition.
The Speaker then ordered questions without notice to resume and left, leaving acting Speaker William Mutomba to preside over the House.
Mliswa then asked Mutomba to explain how the written questions would proceed as most were from members of the opposition and the ministers were not around to respond to them.
He then started shouting at the few ministers present, saying their counterparts were letting down Mnangagwa by truancy.
Mliswa then moved towards Zanu PF benches, where he pointed at ministers and MPs, labelling them G40 members who were sabotaging Mnangagwa by failing to attend Parliament.
Sensing that the situation was getting out of hand, Ziyambi then moved for the adjournment of the House, and Zanu PF MPs left, leaving their MDC counterparts singing “Chamisa, Chamisa”.