HARARE – Norton MP Temba Mliswa (Independent) was suspended from the National Assembly for six sittings on Wednesday after a dramatic showdown with Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda.
Mliswa dared Mudenda to remove him “for good” during the heated exchange, adding: “I don’t like being here.”
Mliswa was already on a final warning, announced by Mudenda at the start of proceedings, for allegedly walking up to Seke MP Munyaradzi Tobias Kashambe during a debate on June 4 before grabbing and pulling him by his tie.
Kashambe had cited Mliswa as one of the MPs “who is allowed to say what he wants, when he wants to speak and at whatever time.”
Mudenda said Mliswa’s conduct towards Kashambe was “outrageously unbecoming” in terms of Standing Order Number 112 which provides that “any member who wilfully or vexatiously interrupts the orderly conduct of business in the House shall be guilt of contempt”.
The Speaker also said Mliswa had further “disrespected the Chair (Deputy Speaker Tsitsi Gezi) by not abiding by lawful instructions from the Chair, thus violating Standing Order Number 110 which provides that any member who disregards the authority of the Chair or persistently and wilfully disrupts the business of the House commits an offence for which he or she may be suspended from the service of the House.”
Mudenda ordered Mliswa to withdraw his “unparliamentary language and apologise to the House for that language and his threatening disorderly behaviour,” adding: “I must warn Honourable Mliswa that stiffer and heavier penalties await him if this kind of behaviour is repeated.”
Mliswa apologised, telling MPs: “My intention was never to manhandle him. My training does not allow me to manhandle anyone at all…”
It took a few minutes, however, for the combative Mliswa to get in the Speaker’s cross-hairs again, this time after the MP called for ministers who miss parliamentary sessions without asking to be excused to be handed the same punishment as him.
The row erupted after Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya (MDC-Alliance) asked who was the acting health minister, pointing out that he had seen communication that “the one who was there (Obadiah Moyo) is currently suspended” following his arrest over a Covid-19 procurement scandal.
The Leader of the House Ziyambi Ziyambi accused Chikwinya of “misdirecting himself”, adding: “Every time ministers are not here, the questions are directed to the Leader of Government Business. It is not his business to constitute the Cabinet. His business is to ask whoever is there and if that person is not there, we ask the Leader of Government Business.”
Mliswa asked Mudenda if any ministers had excused themselves, and Mudenda – after checking with the Clerk – said: “I have not received as yet. I have a general blanket apology for Members that have gone with His Excellency (President Emmerson Mnangagwa). I think they’re launching something (they were at Heroes Acre to bury liberation war hero Stanley Nleya.”
Mliswa told Mudenda that the absenteeism by some ministers had “gone on and on”, challenging him to “make a ruling on that pertaining to their behaviour, whether they will apologise or be suspended.”
Mudenda advised Mliswa to bring a motion on the issue after checking who was absent, but when Mliswa stood up to respond, he was heckled by Zanu PF MPs.
“Sir, they are provoking me,” he said to Mudenda. “My dad taught that if I’m beaten up at school, I must also hit back. They must be restrained, they are old people. I respect them and there’re some ladies who are doing that and who’re old enough to be my mother. Can they behave like mothers and not be involved in the fight of kids.”
Mudenda told Mliswa that “what you were told by your father is inapplicable because at that time you were not a Member of Parliament.”
Shortly after, Zanu PF Makoni North legislator James Munetsi stood up to ask Ziyambi what was government policy about NGOs which allegedly funded and gave people “talking points” when they attending public consultations on the Constitutional Amendment Bill last week.
He was interrupted by Zengeza West MP Job Sikhala (MDC Alliance) who raised a point of order, but before Sikhala could finish he was heckled by Zanu PF lawmakers.
“If these people continue to provoke like this Mr. Speaker and you protect them…,” Sikhala started, before Mliswa – fed-up with Zanu PF benches, interrupted him and declared: “I’m ready to be suspended. I’m better off in my constituency than with a bunch of empty heads like these.”
When Mudenda called Mliswa to order, the MP went into a defiant monologue: “Why are you not reprimanding them? I cannot be told to withdraw all the time when others are not told to withdraw. It never works like that. The law is for both sides.
“Therefore, I withdraw but may they be reprimanded when it is their time. We’re also human. Our self-esteem is important when we come here. We were elected by people. They (Zanu PF MPs) have the manifesto which they cannot follow and the economy is dying, why do they not work on that and call out the government? The ministers don’t come.”
Mudenda, after calling Mliswa to order again, found the MP in no mood to cooperate. “The truth must be said and I’m prepared to be suspended for the truth. My constituency is more important than being in this House.”
“Honourable Mliswa, you’re removed from the House for the next six sittings,” an enraged Mudenda ruled.
Standing up to leave, Mliswa stormed: “Even for good. I don’t like being here. It’s a useless House Mr. Speaker, it must be fair, not partisan. My constituency is more important.”
Munetsi was ejected from the House moments later after sparring with Sikhala.