Fate of 19 MPs in Speaker’s hands after court decision

National Assembly Speaker, Tulia Ackson. PHOTO | EDWIN MJWAHUZI

Summary

  • The Special Seats MPs last month filed an application requesting approval to challenge Chadema’s decision to expel them from the opposition party, but the High Court dismissed the petition yesterday

Dar es Salaam. The fate of 19 Special Seat MPs who were expelled from Chadema is now in the hands of the Speaker of Parliament after the High Court dismissed their application yesterday.
The lawmakers went to court last month, requesting to be granted approval to oppose the party’s decision to expel them.
However, in a counter-petition Chadema asked the to strike the application on the grounds that it lacked legal merit.
Chadema put forward six key legal submissions to challenge the plea by the 19.
In his ruling, High Court Judge John Mgetta dismissed the application by the MPs on a technicality.

Also Read: Chadema 19 MPs to continue serving, says High Court
In their submission, the MPs stated that the Board of Trustees of the Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo-Chadema was the first respondent in the case.
But Chadema, through Advocate Peter Kibatala, argued that the applicants had sued a non-existent institution.
He said legally, the authentic name the MPs might have been referring to was The Registered Trustees, Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo-Chadema and not the Board of Trustees for Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo-Chadema.
Judge Mgetta sided with Mr Kibatala on the ground that under Section 21 (2) of Tanzania’s Political Parties Act, a political party shall have a board of trustee which will have shall be duly incorporated under the Trustees Incorporation Act.
“Once registered, the name of the board of trustees must start with ‘The Registered…’,” ruled Judge Mgetta.
He dismissed an argument by advocates representing the 19 MPs that the 2019 amendments to the Political Parties Act removed the obligation of “The Registered…”, noting that currently, naming it as “The Board of Trustees” does suffice.
He said the imperfection was huge and one that warranted the dismissal of the submission.
Judge Mgetta also dismissed an application by the 19 MPs to bar the Parliament and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) from taking further measures regarding their (the MPs’) position.  
“Since the application (to bar the Parliament and NEC) is based on the plea for granting of approval (to oppose the party’s decision to expel the MPs from the party) and since the application to grant an approval is dismissed, this application (that of barring the Parliament and NEC) thus loses its legal basis of standing in this Court. It is therefore dismissed,” ruled Judge Mgetta.
Last month, the Chadema governing council blessed a decision by the party’s Central Committee to expel the 19 Special Seats MPs from the party.
But National Assembly Speaker Tulia Ackson later admitted to have received an email and a letter in hard copy from Chadema secretary-general John Mnyika regarding the status of the MPs.
She, however, said that she had been informed by the 19 MPs that they had already filed a case at the High Court against the Chadema’s decision to strip them of party membership by the Central Committee and later the party’s governing council rejected their appeal.
“According to our constitution, the authority responsible for justice is the court. So, in a country that is led by the rule of law one pillars should not interfere with the duties of the other,” Dr Ackson said.
The Speaker added that Parliament could not interfere with the judicial process and must await a court decision.
In addition, she said that she is the only responsible to speak anything regarding the matter of the 19 MPs.
“If there are questions on these lawmakers the one to be asked is the Speaker and should the court decide otherwise, I will come and make an announcement here,” she said.
While the Speaker was speaking of the matter, ten of the 19 MPs, were present in the House, with some asking questions to ministers on various issues.
Those who were present in Parliament today are Sophia Mwakagenda, Conchesta Rwamlaza, Cecilia Pareso, Tunza Malapo, Grace Tendega, Jessica Kishoa, Nusrat Hanje, Esther Matiko, Kunti Majala and Hawa Mwaifunga.
On May 11, 2022, Chadema’s governing council voted unanimously to expel the 19 special seats Members of Parliament who were allegedly sworn in without the blessing of the party.
Commenting on their expulsion, Ms Halima Mdee said the voting process was clouded with intrigues and lacked transparency.