Over the past few days, there have been concerted attempts to stop legislators from exposing and making inquiries into salaries and perks of chief executive officers of parastatals and other corrupt tendencies by public officials.
The Standard Editorial
Last week, the Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda took the unprecedented step to issue a gag order barring MPs from making unsubstantiated statements in Parliament — effectively taking away parliament’s constitutionally given privilege.
It is difficult to understand what could have been going on in Mudenda’s mind, as he told MPs they could not freely debate issues in parliament, unless they were able to substantiate whatever they said.
Mudenda, a member of Zanu PF, made this ruling after Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya alleged that Zimra boss Gershom Pasi was earning US$310 000. Chikwinya had also wanted Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma to disclose how much he is paid.
“The chair hereby rules that with immediate effect, no member shall be allowed to make unsubstantiated allegations against other members and officers of parliament or members of the public except by way of a substantive and clearly formulated motion. The chair shall demand objective and verifiable evidence in support of such a motion,” said Mudenda.
“Any violation of this order will be met with appropriate charges of contempt of parliament against the member of parliament suspected of abusing parliamentary privileges, particularly through uttering statements that are false, malicious and likely to unjustly injure other members of parliament as well as members of the public.”
Mudenda’s order, which erodes Parliament’s oversight role, is both undemocratic and unconstitutional. It is a shameless attempt to disable parliament, which intends to set up an ad hoc committee to probe perks of the bosses of parastatals and other acts of corruption.
We urge MPs not to be intimidated by Mudenda’s antics and to fiercely resist any moves that will distract them from fighting corruption in all its forms.
Zimbabweans expect MPs to continue exposing corrupt public officials whose activities are bleeding parastatals.