- The controversy surrounding the swearing-in as Special Seats MPs of 19 former Chadema members took a new twist yesterday, with National Assembly Speaker Job Ndugai declaring they would remain bona fide lawmakers despite their recent expulsion from the opposition party
Dar es Salaam. The saga of the 19 former Chadema women wing (Bawacha) Special Seat MPs took a new twist yesterday, with National Assembly Speaker Job Ndugai declaring they would remain in the House despite expulsion from the opposition party.
“I want to state categorically that once we have sworn in anyone as a Member of Parliament, including the 19 from Chadema, they continue to remain MPs and I will recognise them as such,” said Mr Ndugai, on the controversy that has topped newspaper headlines since last week.
The speaker added, however, that the ex-Chadema members will cease to be Special Seat MPs if they followed the constitutional way and resigned. He did not expound.
Mr Ndugai is likely to fuel the debate on the requirements for qualification as MP, which is a sticking points as Chadema pointed out on Friday while stripping the 19 of the party membership.
The main opposition party argued the women MPs had breached the constitution and the party’s internal rules by nominating themselves and taking what national chairman Freeman Mbowe said was an illegal oath before Mr Ndugai last week on Tuesday.
Yesterday Mr Ndugai opened a war of words with the opposition party, with each of them accusing the other over the manner in which they were handling the saga of the 19 MPs.
Mr Ndugai who spoke shortly after swearing in presidential nominees, Mr Humphrey Polepole and Ms Riziki Said Lulida, criticized Mr Mbowe for what he termed as presiding over a shameful act against women.
But Chadema Director of Communications and Foreign Affairs Jon Mrema answered back, telling the Speaker that he was humiliating the nation by closing his eyes on the dictates of the Constitution in defending himself and the expelled Chadema MPs.
It was the first time that Mr Ndugai was commenting on Friday’s stripping of the 19 Special Seat MPs of their Chadema membership, only three days after he presided over their swearing in in Dodoma. Chadema announced they had expelled them for taking part in an illegal process and declining an invitation to appear before the party on Friday to explain why they legitimized the election outcome which the party has rejected.
“Them (Chadema) and their gang of men can’t do that to our sisters,” he said, adding that Mr Mbowe should remember what the women wing leaders went through in their political journey with him. He said their expulsion was uncalled for.
Mr Ndungai said: “Mbowe have you forgotten how Halima (Ex-Bawacha chairlady –Mdee) went to prison with you? Or have you forgotten how Bulaya (Ex-Chadema Central Committee member- Easter) was beaten badly to the point that she was sent to the hospital unconscious?”
The Speaker said it was inconceivable that the 19 were expelled without being heard. “What they did is unacceptable and reeks of gender discrimination which should be fought,” said Mr Ndugai to clapping from a crowd that witnessed the event, among them CCM secretary general Bashiru Ally.
In his reaction, Mr Mrema said unlike Chadema which observed both the constitution and its party processes in dealing with the matter, Mr Ndugai was insincere in his defence and is ‘deliberately presiding over a shameful act of disregard to the supreme law.”
“Ndugai’s double speak and double standard exposes his agenda in the whole affair,” said Mrema, pointing out that the Speaker was reading and applying the constitution as he deemed fit for his own interests.
He said during the 11th parliament, in July 2017, eight Civic United Front (CUF) MPs were stripped of their party membership and Mr Ndugai who was also the Speaker promptly removed them from the House.
“So, what has now changed? Why is he not doing the same for Chadema as the 19 MPs have lost membership of the party which reportedly sponsored them?” asked Mr Mrema, pointing out that the shielding of the expelled MPs would break several Articles of Tanzania’s Constitution.
Article 67 (1) b. says for one to be an MP, he must be a candidate proposed by a political party. Article 71 (1) e. also says one ceases to be an MP if he leaves membership of the party that he was elected or appointed on.
As for Special Seat MPs, for which the 19 were nominated, Article 78 (1) says their names shall be proposed by respective political party and sent to the electoral commission for appointment. Section 3 and 4 of the same Article 78 requires that the electoral body shall only use the list of nominees from the political party while ensuring that all the provisions of the Constitution were applied to satisfy their nomination.
Chadema has also queried whether the oath that Mr Ndugai continues to administer outside Parliament was constitutional. According to Mr Mrema, Article 68 of the law expressly provides that all MPs shall be required to take the oath of allegiance before the National Assembly, which is currently in recess.
“Ndugai’s argument therefore that Parliament amended its regulations to allow for the swearing in before the Speaker and where he wants is a blatant disregard of the law and should be condemned. Parliament regulations cannot supersede the mother law,” said Mrema.
Speaking after taking their oath, Polepole who is also CCM’s Ideology and Publicity Secretary said their job would be to assist the President in implementation of the policies and campaign promises.
Lolida also applauded the President’s decision to appoint her and said she would work hard in supporting the government’s efforts for development.