BY VENERANDA LANGA

SPEAKER of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda yesterday announced a nine-member Privileges Committee made up of eight Zanu PF MPs and one opposition member to investigate MDC Alliance legislators for snubbing President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Parliament and walking out on him during his addresses.

The only MP that he included from the opposition in the nine-member panel was Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (MDC), but she declined the offer and Mudenda said he would find a replacement.

The other eight are Jonathan Samukange (Mudzi South) who will chair the committee, Joseph Chirongoma (Mashonaland West senator), Omega Hungwe (Harare
Metropolitan senator), Cecil Kashiri (Magunje MP), Stars Mathe (Nkayi South MP), Levi Mayihlome (Umzingwane MP), Kindness Paradza (Makonde MP) and Alignia Samson (Proportional Representative).

“I announce the appointment of a Privileges Committee to investigate allegations of improper conduct against MDC Alliance MPs,” Mudenda said.

“On November 14, Zanu PF chief whip Pupurai Togarepi raised a matter of privilege regarding the conduct of MDC MPs, whereby since 2017, each time the President attends Parliament in his official capacity as head of State, they either do not rise for him as a matter of respect or they walk out, and Togarepi finds the behaviour of MDC Alliance MPs grossly disrespectful of the
President,” Mudenda said.

He said as chair, he ruled that there was a prima facie case of contempt of Parliament charges against the MDC Alliance MPs and accordingly, the Standing Rules and Orders Committee found it prudent to set up the Privileges Committee to investigate the opposition legislators and come up with punitive measures against them.

“The terms of reference for the Privileges Committee include that the committee will investigate the conduct of MDC Alliance MPs in consecutive instances, whereby they did not rise for His Excellency the President, walked out of Parliament when the President was addressing, and did not bother to attend Parliament whenever the President attended Parliament.

“The committee will establish whether such conduct, as outlined, constitutes contempt of Parliament, and any other incidents that may arise from the investigations and to report the findings in the National Assembly by February 28, 2020,” Mudenda said.

In declining the offer, Misihairabwi-Mushonga said: “If I am allowed, may I take the opportunity to decline on the basis that I am conflicted. I can raise the issue of conflict of interest with you, Mr Speaker.”

Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya (MDC Alliance) then asked the Speaker to explain why he had ignored his point of privilege that he raised last week to investigate Zanu PF legislators that have been disrupting all portfolio and thematic committees chaired by the MDA Alliance legislators.

But Mudenda quashed his point and refused to take any more point of privileges from opposition MPs.

“The terms of reference said any other incident that may arise will be looked at,” Mudenda said.

When Warren Park MP Shakespear Hamauswa (MDC Alliance) later tried to raise the issue again, Mudenda curtly responded: “I do not want to go into details. May the committee do its work. We must address the fundamental reasons causing the disruptions.”