Dar es Salaam. Kigoma Urban Member of Parliament Mr Zitto Kabwe was yesterday adamant and unapologetic over remarks he made recently accusing Parliament and Speaker Job Ndugai of being captive of the executive.
Mr Kabwe who appeared before the Parliamentary Privileges, Ethics and Powers Committee in Dodoma for grilling over the remarks reiterated his position that the government was interfering with Parliament’s independence.
In a written statement submitted to the committee and which he made available to the media, Mr Kabwe protested that his arrest and summons was an infringement of his rights and an attempt to muzzle free speech.
The MP also submitted before the committee an addendum in which he claimed that the recent deadly and daylight shooting of opposition MP Tundu Lissu was the work of forces who wanted to silence vocal critics of President John Magufuli and his administration.
Mr Lissu is recuperating at a Nairobi hospital from near-fatal injuries he sustained when unknown people ambushed and sprayed more than 30 bullets into his car shortly after leaving Parliament.
Mr Kabwe who is Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT)-Wazalendo Party Leader offered his defence before the committee chaired by Newala MP George Mkuchika. He had been driven there at dusk yesterday following his arrest at the Julius Nyerere Airport on Wednesday night.
Speaker Job Ndugai had ordered that the MP be grilled for his remarks, including what he viewed as a personal attack on his style of leadership of Parliament.
But Mr Kabwe said he was within his constitutional right to express his views as a concerned Tanzanian and leader. He went on to list several examples he said vindicate his stance that Mr Ndugai had ceded the power of Parliament to the executive. “My right to speak and express my views must not be curtailed, it is against the constitution and against the Arusha declaration,” said Mr Kabwe.
Among the issues he said pointed to the executive interference of Parliament was the withdrawal of live coverage of Parliament infavour of public meetings of the President around the country. He said the government has denied Parliament enough funds to run its operations while Mr Ndugai must seek permission from the government for MPs to travel abroad.
“The Parliament’s decision to return Sh6 billion to the government over cost cutting initiatives without approval of MPs was a decision taken to ingratiate to the executive, because while the money is returned some committees failed to function over inadequate funding,” he told the committee.
Mr Kabwe said President Magufuli has severally and publicly issued orders to the Speaker on how to discipline MPs he labelled problematic inside the August House.
He said Mr Ndugai’s decision to hand over gemstone investigation reports to President Magufuli before a resolution of the whole House painted a House pandering at the executive.
“The revelation by the President that Mr Ndugai called him to suggest names of MPs to sit on the gemstone probe committees is proof of direct interference,” said Kabwe, adding that the House has also taken to the habit of deleting from opposition speeches any mention of President Magufuli and other ills by the government.
Also, Mr Kabwe told the committee that Mr Lissu’s assassination attempt and ongoing trend of arrest of opposition MPs justified his statement that the Parliament was no longer independent.
He said the government has declined to table in Parliament a quarterly budget statement as required while Mr Ndugai reportedly allowed an amendment to spare the government of this accountability requirement.
On Lissu’s saga, Mr Mr Kabwe claimed it was engineered to silence President Magufuli critics.
“Without mincing words, I believe the attacker’s main goal is to silence people, specifically critics of the government. Recently he (Mr Lissu) has been one of the most critics of the President’s actions,” he told the committee.
He rubbished theories that the attack could have been carried by people whose intentions is to taint the government. “The best answer to these heartless attackers is simple, we must continue the role Lissu played. We must not be silenced. We must continue to speak our minds, air our views and question government policies,” he said.