Margaret Zziwa two years ago made history becoming EALA’s first female Speaker. Similarly she is on her way to make history by being the first Speaker at Arusha-based Assembly to be censured.
Her sympathizers protest the fact that her two predecessors made almost similar mistakes, for which she is being accused, but weren’t censured! We have seen copies of the petition received by Clerk’s office last Wednesday March 26th.
Chief mover is Peter Mathuki Mutuku (Kenya) and seconders are Shyrose Bhanji (Tanzania), Dr. Odette Nyiramirima (Rwanda) and Hafsa Mossi (Burundi). The enthusiasm with which members have been signing onto the petition is indicative her chances of surviving are almost zero.
Whereas Rule 9 of the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure demands merely four signatures from each member state, that requirement has been exceeded. The petition received by EALA Clerk shows only 12 members hadn’t signed as of last Wednesday. Consensus is that only 10 members are still for Zziwa whose removal needs only two thirds of the 44 member Assembly.
That could explain why relentless Mbidde talks of court. Mbidde is an eminent lawyer and his argument is that the “Speaker can’t be removed for flouting rules which don’t effectively exist.” Whatever that means! EALA rules provide three grounds for Speaker’s removal including misconduct which is the main accusation petitioners are making against Zziwa. It provides that on securing 4 signatures from each country, petitioners write to Clerk which they have already done.
The Clerk must then notify the House within 24 hours and must table the motion within 7 days of its reception. The House then refers it to the Assembly’s Committee of Legal affairs, Rules and Previledges. The Committee scrutinizes the petition including hearing the Speaker’s side after which it reports back to the House.
The report is then debated after which members vote on the Speaker’s fate. Once that happens and two thirds majority vote against him or her, the Speaker immediately ceases to hold office. This appears to be the fate awaiting Zziwa whose husband Capt Francis Babu, when called for a comment, angrily told us off saying: “Please never call me again.” He said Red Pepper hates them as a family and that he has no business talking to us on anything. He implied he has better things to do than picking our calls! He nevertheless spoke out using his Metro FM radio on Saturday.
EALA MPS BROKE
Prompted by one of his listeners, Babu disputed reports that his wife’s was a done deal. The fire-spitting Babu said EALA MPs are choking on loans and are broke just like MPs in Ugandan parliament. He said they are angry with Zziwa because she declined proposals to use her leverage to push the Council of Ministers to increase their emoluments.
Babu also faulted motion promoters for using underhand methods including intimidating and blackmailing members to secure their signatures. He also decried disrespect EALA MPs have manifested by defying current EAC Summit boss Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta whose advice has been that calm and sanity immediately returns to the Assembly.
One of the callers dismissed Ugandan members behind the petition as unpatriotic adding that their move tantamount to undermining Uganda and the interests of President Museveni. Babu also refused to rule out the possibility that the EALA MPs are acting chauvinistically by marginalizing Zziwa because she is a woman. Babu wondered why the past two Speakers who were men acted almost in the same way but were never threatened with censure like is now happening to Zziwa.
Babu, against whom members directly complain in the petition, claimed that EALA MPs’ brokenness could be exposed should anyone out of curiosity suspend EALA business for 6 months. He wonders whether such a scenario wouldn’t see many of them end in jail because of unserviced loans. Like Mbidde, Babu claimed those who haven’t yet signed the petition are under a lot of intimidation by those wanting Speaker out. He didn’t elaborate which form this intimidation has taken. Babu also didn’t spare youthful Nusura Tiperu who has been the chief mobilizer for the petition.
He claimed she wanted her co-ethnics from West Nile to get big jobs at Arusha and resented Zziwa when they didn’t succeed. Tiperu, who nominated Zziwa two years ago when everybody else feared to do so, refused to discuss Babu’s claims when we called her. “Just watch this space,” is all she said and hung up. Some Ugandan EALA MPs, declining to be named, argued that with only 10 MPs remaining to sign, resigning was the only plausible way Zziwa can save her face from the impending disgrace of being forced out.
In his petition, Kenya’s Peter Mathuki details 15 grievances members have against the Speaker. They in summary include sidelining the Commission in making key decisions including the one on rotational sittings. That she unilaterally made this decision contrary to established policy. The other is failure to delegate as was manifested at EALA’s 2013 capacity building workshop in Mombasa where members yawned for a whole day because the Speaker was away doing other things.
Mathuki says this happened twice. Petitioners say the Assembly lost money as a result of this failure to delegate.That the Speaker has housing allowances but rarely stays in Arusha. That during inter-parliamentary games, the Speaker favored her family members to play in netball team at the expense of EALA members. That her family members are involved in staff recruitment to the exclusion of EALA Commissioners. Mathuki adds the Speaker’s spouse is often involved in EALA affairs-sometimes acting disrespectfully towards members.
Mathuki protests misallocation of resources citing the Conference for Global Parliamentarians for Habitat whose African Chapter Zziwa chairs. Giving the example of IPU “where EALA is just an observer,” Mathuki also faults Zziwa for sometimes being too busy for EALA work. That she personally attends functions including those where delegating would have been the best thing. That she practices nepotism and favoritism when allocating travel opportunities abroad.
He protests use of media to slander and character-assassinate members but doesn’t elaborate. Petitioners also protest disrespect of Chapter Chairpersons including a January 2014 incidence when the Speaker angrily banged tables during a stormy meeting in Kampala. She is quoted in the petition as telling them off: “If you elected me, you can dis-elect me.” That the Speaker recently referred to some EALA members as “adolescents” infront of EAC Summit Chair Uhuru Kenyatta and EAC ministers.
Petitioners also allege harassment and intimidation of EALA staff. They also cite recent two walk-outs on her as evidence that members have lost trust in the Speaker on the basis of which she must cease to hold office. Mathuki concludes by citing the enthusiasm with which members have signed his petition as further evidence of a Speaker who has lost legitimacy to hold her coveted office.