KAMPALA, UGANDA: Mityana Municipality Member of Parliament, Hon. Francis Zaake was Thursday this voted out to be removed from his position as a Parliamentary Commissioner after a motion to have him impeached tabled by MP Martin Ojara Mapenduzi (Bardege – Layigi county) was adopted by the House.
The voting exercise followed the report of the committee that found Zaake in breach of public trust and confidence for statements he made on his Twitter account disparaging the Deputy Speaker, Anita Among.
Thursday’s voting that consisted of only 161 MPs out of 529 saw 155 MPs vote to remove Zaake from the Parliament Commission while 4 MPs voted against the proposal and two votes were registered as invalid. The exercise also saw a section of members from the Opposition walk out in protest.
The Parliamentary Commission which the NUP Legislator was part of performs different roles such as appointing, promoting, and exercising disciplinary control over persons holding respective offices in the House. It also reviews the terms of service of appointees.
Zaake’s removal followed the adoption of a report of the Committee of Rules, Discipline and Privileges with amendments presented by Chairperson Abdu Katuntu.
In his report, Abdu Katuntu said that Zaake did not protect the integrity of Parliament but instead his conduct brought the entire Parliament and its leadership into disrepute. Adding that the statements from the legislator undermined the dignity and integrity of the Office of the Speaker.
Katuntu said that Zaake’s statements lowered the esteem of the institution of Parliament in the eyes of the citizens who ought to look up to their leaders.
“Following an evaluation of the submissions and evidence, the committee observes that Hon. Zaake did not take steps as provided in the Rules of Procedure to challenge the words of the Presiding Officer which allegedly led him to post the impugned social media posts. This is clearly so upon examining his statements made to the committee,” he said in his report.
The Mityana Municipality MP was not present during the session, a development some MPs felt impacted the outcome of the vote since he didn’t give his views on the matter. The Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LoP), Mr Mathias Mpuuga, questioned the previous process of obtaining signatures from MPs—a move which eventually saw the motion being debated in the House. The signatures were laid on the table by Mr Ojara.
“I wanted to be on record that the signatures laid by Honourable Mapenduzi are fraudulent before this House,” the LoP protested, adding, “I am alive to how signatures are collected over such a matter. The record was never at the sergeant (at-arms) table.”
In response, Ms Among said the signatures were collected by the sergeant (at-arms) and clerk to Parliament.
Aisha Kabanda, the Butambala Woman MP who presented the minority report recommended reconciliation between the two warring parties involved in the matter for smooth running of Parliament and avoidance of unnecessary tension. She also raised the matter of the presiding officers chairing sessions where they could be conflicted.
“We recommend that Parliament amends the law to provide for a panel of presiding officers in situations where both Speaker and Deputy Speaker could be either indisposed or conflicted,” she said.
Busia Municipality MP, Geoffrey Macho seconded the motion saying the removal of Zaake as a commissioner would bring sanity. He says that the removal of Zaake is not because of his political party but of his character.
Other MPs like former LoP Nathan Nandala Mafabi (Budadiri West), however, reckon that the punishment was excessive for a first time offence, especially since “no-one is a saint on earth.” Another former LoP, Ms Betty Aol Ocan, (Gulu City, Woman) believes bigger problems other than Mr Zaake’s should be illuminated.
Mr Eron Kizza, a legal representative for Mr Zaake, described the process that ended with his client being stripped of his position as commissioner as “unfair.” Mr Zaake could not be reached for a comment by press time. The Opposition chief whip, John Baptist Nambeshe (Manjiya County), however, said they are exploring options of “seek[ing] redress in courts of judicature.”
Deputy Speaker Anita Among after Thursday’s voting stated that Mr Zaake not only “cease[d] to be a member of the Parliamentary Commission” but “is required to come and make an apology in this House in one week.” The Opposition, she added, would be “ask[ed]…to give us another name of a commissioner.”
However, it remains unclear whether the Opposition is barred from recommending Mr. Zaake for the same position again as they look to fill the void by his removal.
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