Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago has joined the National Unity Platform (NUP) to lambast Parliament’s excessive punishment to Mityana Municipality MP, Francis Butebi Zaake. Taking to his facebook wall, lukwago was particularly disturbed that Zaake is being forced by deputy speaker Anita Among to apologise to parliament yet the same House condemned him to censure.
On Thursday Zaake was censured from his position as a Parliamentary Commissioner over what was termed as contempt of parliament. Zaake’s censure followed remarks that he made against Deputy Speaker Anita among in response to what he termed as the deputy speaker’s mockery of his torture ordeal at the hands of a state.
Zaake exploded on his Facebook page after among congratulated him upon bravely winning a gold medal for the Ugandan parliament in athletics despite nursing a sick leg.
In response, Zaake used what has since been adjudged to be foul language not befitting of an MP. Consequently, Gulu West MP Ojara Mapenduzi moved a motion to have him censured, a feat he achieved on Thursday.
The censure of zaake was greeted with cheers from NRM MPs who celebrated it. And while announcing Zaake’s censure, Deputy Speaker Anita Among even added that Zaake will be further required to apologise to the House within one week.
“Hon Zaake ceases to be a member of the parliamentary commission and he is required to apologize to the house within a period of one week. I, therefore, ask the opposition to send in another name for a person who is going to replace him,” she said.
As expected, Zaake’s party, the National Unity Platform (NUP) protested the censure, calling it an illegality.
The NUP protest party was started by Leader of opposition Mathias Mpuuga shortly after the censure. In a press conference convened at the party headquarters after news of Zaake’s knifing, Mpuuga also expressed concern that by requiring Zaake to apologise, speaker Among was meting a double punishment on Zaake.
“We take exception to the fact that Parliament would sit and resolve to subject a member to a double punishment and resolve in commonality that that’s acceptable,” Mpuuga said.
Mpuuga was supported by many other legal minds, notable among them being lord mayor Erias Lukwago of the FDC party, and NUP’s Joel Ssenyoyi and Lewis Rubongoya.
In his take on the matter, Lukwago argued that it was wrong to subject ZAAKE to a parliamentary apology yet he committed the alleged crime on social media. Lukwago therefore believes Zaake should equally apologise on social media.
“The Hon. Francis Zaake is said to have issued the vituperative statement against the Speaker in the social media, why then order him to make an apology on the floor of parliament!? Even if he had been found guilty of using foul language, the law and practice require that the apology ought to be published in the same forum as the impugned statement, that is, social media. Besides, why subject him to double punishment; expulsion from the Parliamentary Commission and an apology!?” Lukwago argued.
And echoing Lukwago’s sentiments, Mpuuga said Zaake’s censure was plagued by many illegalities but which were ignored as MPs fought to grant the deputy speaker her ultimate wish. Mpuuga thus reasoned that NUP was mulling over court action
“… That’s a very serious flaw in the procedure but we stand to address all those gaps when the time comes for us to address what’s next. We’ll likely seek alternative remedy since there’s no provision for appeal (in the parliament),” Mpuuga said.
According to Mpuuga, Zaake’s censure had about three glaring procedural flaws which will likely form the basis of their court case, should they choose to take the matter for redress. The first illegality was amending the report of the committee on rules, discipline and privileges to introduce Zaake’s censure. It should be noted that initially this wasn’t part of the report but an amendment was made to include it following a motion by Rukiga County MP Roland Ndyomugyenyi. Secondly, the house also sought to suspend rules 107 and 110 which guide on how a censure of a parliamentary commissioner should be handled. Mpuuga, for instance, argued that the law requires the censure motion to be pinned on the notice board and for the signatures to be collected in ten days; which wasn’t done for Zaake’s case. Also, Rule 110 (6) requires that a commissioner be censured upon a vote ratio of at least a half of the members of the house. This in essence meant that because the current Parliament boasts 526 members, at least 253 were needed to censure Zaake and not the 155 upon whom his censure was premised. This, however, was quashed by the Deputy Speaker who reasoned that MPs agreed to amend the house’s quorum to 100 MPs due to the Covid-19 SOPs. According to Among, therefore, only 50 MPs were needed to form the quorum for Zaake’s censure. The MPs were further given the all-clear by the attorney general who argued that MPs have the right to amend the rules that were amended.
Despite the attorney general’s advice, Mpuuga insists that the house erroneously amended the rules to favour the deputy speaker.
He thus called this lifting “an interpretation of the basic rules upside down”. Mpuuga was further supported by other NUP stalwarts, who believe Zaake’s censure was forced by the increasing infallibility of the deputy speaker. This, they say, poses a very big threat to both country and the parliament in general.
This is the view of NUP spokesperson Joel Senyonyi, who poked holes in the Deputy Speaker’s own conduct in this whole saga, saying she too needs to apologise for having provoked Zaake with mockery.
“I would like to hear an apology from the Deputy Speaker. We cannot excuse her for her reckless and insensitive remarks about torture victims,” Senyonyi said.
He took issue with the deputy speaker’s excessive powers, saying she was also biased in the matter.
“Who is holding the Deputy Speaker accountable for her reckless remarks?
I think she was very reckless and careless in her statements, and I am not afraid to say that.”
Senyonyi also alluded to the procedural flaws, saying: “What happened on Thursday was mob justice. It is problematic when you are the complainant, judge and executioner. This is what the Deputy Speaker did.
She blinded herself to the rules. For example, how were the signatures collected?”
The NUP publicist expressed optimism that court may help avert the situation.
“In the past, there have been Parliamentary decisions that have been quashed by court. That’s why it is important to follow the law,” he said.
The party secretary David Lewis Rubongoya also weighed in on the matter with words of encouragement to Zaake, thus: “The forces of evil may appear fearsome but they never win in the end. I believe in TIME. My brother Hon. Zaake Francis, thank you for the courage. Those who tried to bury you yesterday have no idea what a seed you are. Keep on keeping on. History will be kind to you.”
In response, Zaake said: “Thank you brother David Lewis Rubongoya, As we all know that the cost of freedom is always high, but Ugandans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission to the oppressor.”
Zaake will also be soothed by a social media army which has come out to attack the deputy speaker, calling her action a display of ego pushed by pressure to overshadow what her predecessor Rebecca Kadaga achieved in her capacity as Deputy Speaker and later full Speaker.