Legal experts weigh in on the status of 19 Special Seats MPs

Some of the 19 Special Seats MPs who were formally expelled from Chadema last week. They are pictured arriving at Mlimani City Conference Centre in Dar es Salaam last Wednesday to attend the Executive Council meeting, which stripped them of membership. Chadema kicked the lawmakers out, accusing them of betrayal and fraud. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • The 19 Special Seats MPs, led by former Kawe legislator, Ms Halima Mdee, went to Court last month, requesting to be granted an approval to oppose their party’s decision to expel them

Dar es Salaam. The 19 Members of Parliament -- who were expelled from main opposition Chadema – will remain authentic legislators, a legal expert said yesterday, pending any utterance by Speaker of Parliament Tulia Ackson.

Although Wednesday’s High Court ruling had nothing to do with their legality in the august House, it is finally the Speaker that will decide before the politicians make another move that could bar the House from making any decision against them.

The 19 Special Seats MPs, led by former Kawe legislator, Ms Halima Mdee, went to Court last month, requesting to be granted an approval to oppose their party’s decision to expel them.

And, on Wednesday, High Court Judge John Mgetta, struck out their petition on technical grounds. The Court ruled in favour of Chadema which, through Advocate Peter Kibatala, argued that the 19 Special Seats MPs had sued a non-existent institution.

The issue in question was that while in their submission, the 19 lawmakers had written the name of the Board of Trustees for Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo-Chadema as the first respondent in the case, the party argued that to make legal sense, they should have named The Registered Trustees, Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo-Chadema as the respondent.

But while some quarters may have construed that to mean the 19 MPs have lost the battle, Mr Bashiri Yakubu, an advocate, told The Citizen yesterday that what the Court did was to strike out the submission and not dismiss the case as some understood it.

From the legal point of view, to strike out means to order that a written material be deleted so that it may no longer be relied upon.

“So in short, they are simply awaiting the Speaker’s utterance on the matter. Should the Speaker decide to make any statement now, they will have to abide by it but in case they return to the court before the Speaker makes any statement against them, then the House will have to wait until a decision is reached in court,” said city-based advocate Yakubu.

For his part, Mr Emmanuel Ukashu, an advocate who represented the 19 MPs in the case said: “So in short, the main issue regarding their legality of being in Parliament has not been heard yet. What the court did was to hear the technical shortfalls and ruled that it be struck out so it can be rectified before the main case is heard”.

He said after the technical ruling, it would be up to the 19 to decide whether to rectify the shortfalls and go back to court or not.

“So at the moment, I cannot say much. I am in discussion with my clients to know the next step. At the moment they will continue with their business as MPs,” he said.

In another development, yesterday at a press conference, Chadema’s deputy secretary general (Zanzibar), Mr Salumu Mwalimu, said yesterday that the party was only awaiting the Speaker’s verdict after the Court ruling.

“Our responsibility is to ensure the news of the verdict reaches Parliament,” he said.

He said as soon as the verdict had been delivered a letter was sent to the Speaker via the official Parliament e-mail, asking her to implement the requirements of the party’s May 12 letter in which it [Chadema] resolved to fire the 19 MPs from the party.

Meanwhile, the 19 have been attending parliamentary proceedings and that yesterday, they were in the House whereby some of them were granted a chance to ask questions to the government side during the ongoing debate on the Sh41.48 trillion national budget for the fiscal year 2022/23.

During the session the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Ackson, allowed Special Seat MP Salome Makamba an opportunity to pose a supplementary question to the government.

In her question, Ms Makamba wanted to know when the government would deploy medical equipment at the two Kambarage and Magua health centres in Shinyanga Urban which serve many residents.

The question was responded by deputy Minister of State in the President’s Office (Regional Administration and Local Government) Dr Festo Dugange.