BY VENERANDA LANGA
Main opposition MDC legislators stand to lose more than $15 000 each in sitting allowances after they walked out on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) and the official opening of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament in Harare yesterday.
In a move meant to embarrass Mnangagwa, the opposition MPs turned up in Parliament and participated in the processions preceding the official opening of Parliament ceremony.
However, as Mnangagwa and the First Lady Auxillia entered the chamber — the opposition MPs remained seated, but later stood up and sang the national anthem.
As soon as Mnangagwa began his Sona, the opposition MPs walked out disturbing the flow of his speech.
Zanu PF MPs then quickly filled up the spaces left by the opposition MPs to ensure that the House did not look half full as it was a televised show.
Mnangagwa was then left to address Zanu PF legislators only, who cheered and clapped during his presentation.
They also sang “ED Pfee”, as he concluded his speech and left the House. The judges’ procession, led by Chief Justice Luke Malaba, also got resounding cheers from Zanu PF MPs as they left after Mnangagwa.
Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda then made a ruling after Mnangagwa had gone, saying Finance minister Mthuli Ncube must not pay the opposition legislators yesterday’s sitting allowance, as well as the past five months’ sitting allowances.
But leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Thabitha Khumalo told NewsDay that her party lawyers were already looking at the Speaker’s ruling with a view to challenge it in court.
“We have heard about the Speaker’s ruling and have instructed our legal department to check into the issue. We do not know how much is involved. We snubbed the address because we have a congress resolution that Mnangagwa did not win the 2018 elections and so we are upholding the resolution,” she said.
Although Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi and Zanu PF chief whip Pupurai Togarepi refused to disclose the exact amount in sitting allowances that MPs are paid, a legislator who spoke on condition of anonymity said the amounts were recently increased through the supplementary budget from $75 per sitting to $700.
Effectively, this means each legislator from the MDC stands to lose more than $15 000 if the Speaker’s ruling is implemented.
Mudenda said before Mnangagwa’s address, he had engaged in discussions with Khumalo, Ziyambi and Togarepi, appealing to Khumalo that her party must not embarrass the President.
“In terms of powers vested in me as head of Parliament and also in respect of the Constitution (section 119), the behaviour which was demonstrated by opposition MPs who walked out when the President started to speak, these MPs shall not be allowed to come back into the House during this sitting today, and accordingly, they will not receive their sitting allowances,” Mudenda ruled.
“I am aware that we had put together a paysheet for the past outstanding sitting allowances for the past five months and I want that paysheet withdrawn from the Ministry of Finance. Effectively, it means no payment for today’s and five months other sitting days that were outstanding. If this unpalatable behaviour persists, then more drastic action shall be taken as guided by the Standing Rules and Orders Committee,” Mudenda ruled.
Ziyambi castigated the behaviour of MDC MPs, saying their actions were unfortunate.
Togarepi described the opposition legislators as “greedy” individuals who thought they were employed by Parliament.
“The punishment is not even severe. Actually, they must be chucked out of Parliament and we call for by-elections,” Togarepi said.
During his speech on the official opening of the Second Session of the Ninth Parliament, Mnangagwa announced that several Bills would be brought before the House for crafting.
Mnangagwa announced that around 25 Bills will be brought before Parliament; some of them which will impose stiffer penalties for money-laundering offences, rape and theft of Zesa power cables and equipment.
Of note are also the Provincial and Metropolitan Councils Bill to promote devolution of power, and Bills like the amendments to the Mines and Minerals Act, the Gold Trade Bill and the Precious Stones Act, as well as amendments to the Petroleum Act to impose stiffer penalties for vandalism and theft of electricity infrastructure.
Mnangagwa also vaguely expressed interest to initiate talks with MDC president Nelson Chamisa. “I am happy with the progress being made under the ongoing Political Actors Dialogue and stand ready to welcome all political parties who contested in the 2018 harmonised elections, and are yet to be part of this forum,” he said.
He said his government was committed to democratic reforms and observance of constitutional rights.
“The culture of fear and violence must be uprooted from our societies. In line with this commitment to deepen our democracy, I have set up an inter-ministerial taskforce to look into the political, electoral, legislative and administrative issues raised by the 2018 election observer missions and, indeed, the Motlanthe Commission of Enquiry,” Mnangagwa said. NewsDay