Dodoma. There was drama in Parliament yesterday as Speaker Job Ndugai and Shinyanga Urban MP Stephen Masele traded accusations on the floor of the House.
It all started after Parliament’s Powers, Privileges and Ethics Committee found Mr Masele guilty of misconduct and proposed that he be barred from attending three consecutive parliamentary sittings.
If the proposal had been adopted, Mr Masele, who is also first vice president of the Pan African Parliament (PAP), would have missed the ongoing Budget sitting as well as the September and November 2019 meetings.
According to the verdict, delivered by the committee chairman Emmannuel Mwakasaka, Mr Masele was found guilty of sending a malicious text message to top government officials.
He was also found guilty of travelling outside the country without the Speaker’s permission.
Mr Mwakasaka said Mr Masele had also erred by failing to honour the Speaker’s directive which gave him 24 hours to return home from South Africa.
The committee also concluded that Mr Masele put the Executive and Judiciary on a collision course when he addressed PAP recently.
Mr Masele was then given an opportunity to defend himself, and he spent 11 minutes levelling allegations against Mr Ndugai.
When Mr Masele concluded his remarks, Mr Ndugai hit back with verve.
He said Mr Masele’s behaviour was disgraceful, adding that the lawmaker was synonymous with intrigue and trickery.
According to Mr Ndugai, Mr Masele had been asking to provide him with security.
“He has also been asking for a good house and a posh vehicle similar to the one given to the Leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament,” he said, noting that as head of the legislative arm of the State, he could not provide Mr Masele with such benefits, adding that it was only the Head of State who could do so.
“We should ignore him, as I have already forgiven him,” Mr Ndugai said. Earlier, before Mr Mwakasaka had presented his committee’s verdict, Mr Cecil Mwambe (Ndanda-Chadema) stood up on a point of order, and asked that Mr Ndugai leave the seat to a neutral person since he was an interested party in the saga.
But Mr Ndugai said that was not important because all matters that go to the Powers, Privileges and Ethics Committee must be submitted by the Speaker, who does not have the right to vote in the august House.
With the support of MPs from across the political divide, Mr Masele asked for forgiveness from Mr Ndugai, his fellow lawmakers and his party’s leadership, including its chairman, President John Magufuli, for the physiological torture that they went through during the time the matter was before Parliament.
But he added, however, that he wanted to set the record straight and that Tanzanians deserved to know the truth regarding the source of the allegations Mr Ndugai had levelled against him.
He said as a PAP member, he was not obliged to ask for permission to travel outside the country to attend PAP meetings.
“We are only required to give notification. There are four of us in PAP from Tanzania. Why should I be punished as Masele and not the rest?” he queried.
He said he received a letter from the Speaker on May 16, asking him to return to Tanzania on May 17, something that was impossible, considering the challenges associated with changing flights from South Africa.
He said the letter in question would have been used to the political benefit of the PAP president, Mr Roger Nkodo Dang of Cameroon, who is at loggerheads with Mr Masele, with the former facing a host of allegations at PAP.
“The PAP president wanted to use your letter to have me suspended. Being someone I respect, I spent a good part of my time meditating over your letter, asking myself why you would punish me without listening to my defence. For the sake of my country, Parliament and my fellow MPs, I decided to appeal by communicating with the CCM chairman and with the leader of the ruling party in Parliament, who is also the Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania,” he said.
He said he decided to write to the leaders so that they could advise him because the Speaker’s letter to PAP was meant to ensure that he loses his position as PAP first vice president.
He said Mr Ndugai would have chosen to call him on the phone and ask him about what was happening in South Africa but, he decided to punish him without listening to his defence.
Mr Masele was grilled by Mr Mwakasaka’s committee on May 20 following accusations raised by Mr Ndugai. Mr Ndugai summoned the youthful politician on May 15 to appear before the powerful committee.
The Speaker announced then that Mr Masele’s PAP membership had been temporarily suspended.
Speaking shortly after being grilled on May 20, Mr Masele warned against the danger of interpreting one’s defence against violation of their basic rights as misconduct.