A STRUGGLE is looming between parliament and the principals of the inclusive government after the House said it will investigate Monday’s disruption of the first all-stakeholders conference and MPs found to have participated in the mayhem will be disciplined.
Besides parliament, the co-Home Affairs Minister Giles Mutsekwa this week said he had ordered a full-scale police probe into the disruption of the conference in the capital by Zanu PF loyalists.
Both moves by parliament and Mutsekwa came despite the decision by President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara not to launch a witch-hunt for the culprits.
Trouble at the conference broke out when Zanu PF loyalists demanded the singing of the national anthem at the commencement of the meeting.
The situation degenerated into a fracas when House of Assembly Speaker Lovemore Moyo took to the podium to deliver his opening speech. He was drowned out by the Zanu PF adherents singing revolutionary songs, waving fists and some pelting delegates at the high table with water bottles.
Moyo told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday that parliament would charge any legislator identified to have taken part in the disruption of the conference.
“The constitution-making process is parliamentary business and if there are any MPs that were involved and identified to have taken part in the disruption of the conference they will be charged by parliament,” he said. “Parliamentarians can raise a motion and if that is done, parliament will have to constitute an investigative team to look into the issue and if any MPs were involved in interrupting parliamentary work, then they are in contempt of parliament and the Standing Rules and Orders Committee will have to deal with the issue.”
Under Zimbabwe’s Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act, parliament is empowered to sit as a court and to award and execute punishments for specific offences which are listed under the law.
Parliamentary sources said the House was not bound by the decision of Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara and would take action against MPs who disrupted the conference.
In 2005 then Chimanimani legislator Roy Bennett was imprisoned after he pushed to the ground then Justice and Parliamentary Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa after he had called Bennett’s forefathers “thieves and murderers” and said he deserved to lose his farm because he had benefited from a British colonial system that robbed blacks of their land.
Parliament set up a five-person parliamentary committee, the Privileges Committee, to look into the conduct of Bennett. The committee found the legislator guilty and sentenced him to 15 months imprisonment with labour.
On Wednesday, Mutsekwa told parliament during a question and answer session that the disruption of the conference that led to the abandonment of the business of the day was an embarrassment to the country and that the police probe should expose the perpetrators. Â
“The ministry has since called upon the officer commanding Harare province (police) to make a full investigation,” Mutsekwa said. “The information at hand is that the incident was called by particular individuals, some of which are honourables of this August House. I want to categorically state that this was an embarrassment to the state of Zimbabwe. Investigations will be done.”
But Mutambara contradicted Mutsekwa when he told the same parliamentary session that the principals of the inclusive government had agreed to let “bygones be bygones”.
“No witch-hunting, we want the process to go on,” Mutambara said.
“More importantly we must work towards constitutionalism. What you saw on Monday was a dramatic manifestation of lack of tolerance.”
The Tsvangirai-led MDC blamed Indigenisation minister Saviour Kasukuwere, Zanu PF National Youth Director Patrick Zhuwao and war veterans leader Joseph Chinotimba for sparking the mayhem.
Â “The rowdy and violent scenes that brought the constitutional proceedings to a standstill took place in front of cameras,” the MDC-T said in a statement. “These scenes are on record and footage is available showing Zanu PF senior members Saviour Kasukuwere, Patrick Zhuwao and Joseph Chinotimba leading the mayhem. The three are certainly not and will never be MDC members.” (See Zhuwao’s response on Page 7.)
Tsvangirai told his newsletter this week that Monday’s “deliberate attempts” to derail the constitution-making process would not succeed. Â
“Zimbabweans need, demand and deserve a people-driven, democratic constitution and I am determined to ensure that their desires are realised,” he said. “There can be no shortcuts to the constitution-making process and nor can there be any drafts imposed on the people during the constitution-making process as there can be no substitute to a truly people-driven process.”
Tsvangirai acknowledged that the political dispensation under which “we are all living is not perfect from the point of view of MDC or Zanu PF but that it does offer us, as a nation, a real opportunity to develop a new constitution, institute democratic reforms and hold free and fair elections leading to a new democratic Zimbabwe”.
“The road to this new constitution has been too long for the final product to be anything other than what was envisaged when we first embarked on this journey,” he said. “Together we will develop a constitution that all Zimbabweans can be proud of, that will stand as a beacon for future generations and as a testament to the courage and ideals of our fallen heroes.”
Meanwhile, the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) which is opposed to the parliamentary-led constitution-making process said it would on Monday hold a one-day second people’s constitutional convention to be attended by 3 500 delegates.
“It will be held as a follow-up to the first peoples’ convention of June 1999. The specific objective of this convention is to adopt positions and programmes of action in the light of current attempts by politicians to undermine our struggle for a genuine people-driven constitution,” the NCA said in a statement.
The assembly said the convention would be backed by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the Zimbabwe National Students Union.
The NCA said it would be a convention of like-minded Zimbabweans with “deep convictions” that the constitution-making process must not be led by politicians; that a democratic and sustainable constitution can only come from a genuine people-driven process and not from a “fraudulent parliament-driven” process and that the country could not afford a supreme law designed “solely” to accommodate the interests of the current political leaders.
Bernard Mpofu/ Loughty Dube