BY VENERANDA LANGA
TEMPERS flared yesterday as legislators nearly fought each other when Chegutu MP Dextor Nduna (Zanu PF) and his Mberengwa North counterpart, Tafanana Zhou disrupted a Public Accounts Committee meeting hearing which had summoned three companies to give oral evidence on the Command Agriculture programme.
Nduna together with Zhou were also responsible for disrupting the Mines Committee, then chaired by Temba Mliswa last year, which was investigating bigwigs involved in the diamond looting saga.
PAC has resolved to charge Nduna with contempt of Parliament for causing yesterday’s chaos.
Nduna and Zhou were not present when Fertiliser Seed and Grain (FSG) boss Steve Morland began giving oral evidence on the Command Agriculture programme, where US$2,9 billion was gobbled in 2017 and US$3,5 billion in 2018 without parliamentary approval.
Most of the payments were made to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ally Kudakwashe Tagwirei’s Sakunda Holdings. The two MPs later turned up in the middle of the meeting to cause chaos and traded unprintable words with their opposition counterparts.
Nduna swore that Morland and other witnesses from Pedistock and Croco Motors would not give oral evidence until the MDC legislators, who had been walking out on Mnangagwa in Parliament, recognised his legitimacy.
As they traded barbs with each other in full view of Morland and other witnesses, it was evident that the aim was to ensure that the investigations on the Command Agriculture programme are quashed.
MDC legislators accused Nduna and Zhou of getting paid to disrupt PAC investigations by some of the companies embroiled in the saga.
During the melee, PAC chair Tendai Biti kept his cool and did not involve himself too much in the harsh exchanges.
“This meeting cannot go on because we still have our own issues as a committee and if possible, can Biti step out of the chair and Mliswa proceed as chairperson as an opposition MP because we cannot be chaired by an opposition that does not recognise our President,” Nduna said.
Parliament rules stipulate that the PAC should always be chaired by a person from the opposition as it has an oversight role on public finances.
Morland was asked to go out so that the PAC tries to resolve its differences first. But even after an hour of deliberations and trading insults, the issue was not resolved.
The FSG boss was called back to continue with his oral evidence, but Nduna continued to shout that the committee meeting would not proceed.
Marondera East MP Caston Mateo (MDC Alliance) suggested that they should pretend that Nduna was not present and leave him to shout as much as he could, but continue with oral evidence from Morland.
“Legitimise the President first and everything will be okay. You cannot choose not to recognise him because according to the Constitution, Mnangagwa is part of Parliament,” Nduna shouted.
When the MDC MPs ordered him to respect the chair, Nduna hit back saying that Mnangagwa was bigger than Biti as PAC chairperson.
“There is a decision that needs to be made by the Standing Rules and Orders Committee and we cannot proceed until the legitimacy issue of Mnangagwa is resolved by the SROC,” he said.
Dzivarasekwa MP Edwin Mushoriwa (MDC Alliance) then said: “We are not going to allow what Nduna and Zhou did to the Mines Committee to happen again to the PAC. You (Nduna) have a history of disrupting Parliament committees.
“You are claiming that you are defending Mnangagwa when you are defending yourself. You Zanu PF people even lied to the late former President Robert Mugabe claiming that you liked him, but you betrayed him. You are sell-outs and we know that you have been paid a lot of money by some of these companies that are supposed to be grilled for the Command Agriculture issue.”
In anger, Zhou hit back, calling Mushoriwa a fake pastor-turned-politician.
He also attacked Mateo over the shooting incident at his Marondera house saying that he (Mateo) had stage-managed the incident to gain sympathy. This angered Mateo, who then insulted Zhou in front of the witnesses.
Nduna also exchanged harsh words with female legislators from the MDC — Memory Mbondiah (PR) and Virginia Zengeya (PR) — as the parliamentarians continued to trade barbs.
Mliswa kept his cool during the melee and suggested that the meeting be postponed since it was now embarrassing that the media was live-streaming the programme as Nduna disrupted the proceedings.
Zhou shouted: “The MDC strategy is to walk out on Mnangagwa, and so as Zanu PF, this is our strategy.”
Biti then made a ruling that all witnesses should go back and will be re-called to give oral evidence after November 28 when the SROC would have made a decision on the matter.