Dodoma. This week’s developments in the 11th Parliament were reminiscent of the 9th and 10th Parliaments in which almost all MPs, regardless of their political affiliations, stood firm to pin down the government over crucial issues or any matter that affected them as lawmakers.
This time around, the House was unanimous about MP’s privileges, immunity and authority, which they saw as being threatened by regional administrators.
On Wednesday night, the MPs, from both the ruling CCM and the Opposition charged at Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda and Arumeru District Commissioner Alexander Mnyeti like a pride of hungry lions. They unanimously passed four resolutions that aimed at safeguarding the parliamentary immunity, powers and privileges which they argued where being breached with impunity by RCs and DCs.
It all started after the lunch break on Wednesday when Mr Abdallah Ulega (CCM-Mkuranga), who wanted the House Chairman Andrew Chenge (CCM-Bariadi) to issue guidance over what RC Makonda said about the august House on his press conference earlier in the day, where he is said to have belittled the Parliament. Mr Chenge first ordered the office of the Clerk of National Assembly to write to RC Makonda to explain himself of what he had said about the Parliament.
That, however, did not quench the MPs’ thirst on the matter, and after the House finished its scheduled businesses at 7pm, Mwita Waitara (Chadema-Ukonga) moved a motion on parliamentary immunities, and dragged Mr Mnyeti into the fray. He told the House that the DC took it to social media to insult MPs after it adopted a report by Parliamentary Committee on Administration and Local Government which criticised the tendency of some RCs and DCs to misuse their administrative powers.
“I’m a member of the Committee, and in our report we didn’t mention any DC or RC by his/her name, but Mnyeti took to Facebook to hurl insults at us, calling us stupid and that we should stick into our responsibilities and not interfere with those of others…That is a gross violation of the Parliamentary Immunities, Powers and Privileges Act which gives us freedom of expression and debate in the House,” he said, adding:
“The same happened in Dar es Salaam where Makonda said all that we do in here is sleeping. Our privileges are being openly violated; his is the highest degree of contempt… Until when are going to turn a blind eye on this?”
Based on the weight of his argument, Mr Chenge allowed debate on the matter and John Kadutu (Ulyankulu-CCM) took to the floor first, saying: “This House has never been belittled like this before; now who are these acting in contempt of this House? Without us passing their budgets they are going to starve. I think it’s high time this House acquired the power to vet all political appointees. We in CCM fought hard to get here and form a government; our counterparts in the Opposition put up a fight too… we deserve respect and this we aren’t begging, we should deal accordingly with the two so as to set a precedent.”
Ms Esther Bulaya (Bunda Urban-Chadema) told the House that she has personally received a call from Makonda who she said issued threats on a number of MPs.
“She called me and Esther Matiko (Tarime Urban-Chadema); he threatened that he would fix us and added that we are crazy. He also mentioned other MPs including Sugu (Mbeya Urban-Chadema), Joseph Msukuma (Geita Rural-CCM) and Halima Mdee (Kawe-Chadema). He said he has the backing of the Big Man… surely, how can we tolerate such a leader?”
Mr Zitto Kabwe (Kigoma Urban-ACT) said if the Parliament tolerates contempt from RCs and DCs then they should be prepared to be treated in the same way with village leaders. “Our respect and privileges are at stake, and because we’re seen as nobodies, even police find it okay to arrest MPs in the manner we’re currently witnessing.”
Mr Saed Kubenea (Ubungo-Chadema) said RCs and DCs are behaving like they were the police and the law courts in their areas of jurisdiction.
“RC Makonda calls MPs and charges that we’re being used by ministers. He’s sowing seeds of discord between President Magufuli and Minister Nape (Nnauye). We can’t let that go on unchecked,” said Mr Kubenea.
Mr Joseph Msukuma (Geita Rural-CCM) said: “Makonda insulted me by saying I am a joker he was referring to, but I am here because I stand for truth… he said we come here to sleep; my question is: why should we continue to be here and eat taxpayers’ money if all that we do is sleep?”
Sensing the mood of the House, Minister in PM’s Office Jenister Mhagama moved to salvage the President’s name by stressing that it should not be associated with actions of regional administrators, while Attorney General George Massaju advised the House to summon the two before passing any resolutions against them.
The House then unanimously resolved to summon the two before its Immunities, Powers and Privileges Committee and that, should they be found guilty by the Committee, they should resign from public office. The House also resolved that no MP should be arrested by security organs while the House was on session without notifying the Speaker.