SPEAKER of Parliament Jacob Mudenda has denied the legislative institution was failing to discipline errant ministers who continue to show contempt towards its organs, with the latest being that of Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu.
Speaking to NewZimbabwe.com Friday, Mudenda refused to be drawn into prior discussion over possible reprimand against Mpofu’s contemptuous attitude in parliament Thursday.
Mpofu, as former Mines Minister, had been summoned before Norton legislator Temba Mliswa’s Mines and Energy Committee to respond to questions centering on dodgy mining contracts issued during his controversial tenure as head of the portfolio.
But the larger than life Zanu PF politician took a completely different approach towards his questioning, instead daring committee chair Temba Mliswa to a verbal duel.
“I have been abused so many times by you Honourable Chair. You have said so many things, attacking me and maligning me…” Mpofu said wagging a ring finger at the stunned MP.
The minister accused his former Zanu PF ally of holding a vendetta against him.
Following the debacle, Mliswa defiantly tweeted, “Due process & procedure will always rule the day. Parliamentarians should never undermine authority/snub the appointments of His Excellency. Everybody’s innocent until proven guilty & should actively pursue channels to clear themselves if presented when there’s nothing to hide.”
Mpofu’s conduct was widely condemned with observers saying President Emmerson Mnangagwa should take a stand against one of his bossy ministers if he wanted to be taken seriously on his own vows to deal with rampant corruption in his government.
It is an offence to defy parliament as contempt of parliament can be preferred against individuals.
Several top government officials including cabinet ministers have escaped possible censure over different acts which were deemed contemptuous to parliament.
With Mpofu’s brazen disdain for a parliamentary committee, parliament is obliged to mete out some form of punishment towards Mpofu and also as a deterrent to some who may one day decide to imitate him.
However, Mudenda refused to speculate over Mpofu’s fate, insisting he was yet to receive a report from Mliswa’s committee.
“I will wait for the report from the committee,” Mudenda said.
Probed further, Mudenda stuck to his guns.
Parliament has come under fire for failing to reprimand cabinet ministers who continue to stay away during Wednesdays to field questions from legislators.
“The ministers would have sought leave of absence,” Mudenda said.
“It is not true that parliament is failing to reprimand the ministers. Ministers that you do not see in the house would have communicated their prior arrangements.”
MDC-T chief whip Innocent Gonese has often led the opposition assail against Zanu PF ministers who fail to attend sessions.