Parly speaker faces contempt of court

June 18, 2021

Six opposition members of parliament are considering filing contempt of court charges at the High Court against the Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Mudenda, who has refused to comply with an order that reversed their recall from the august house.

Brenna Matendere

On 16 March 2021, Mudenda announced in parliament that Tendai Biti who represented Harare East constituency, Settlement Chikwiya (Mbizo) Willias Madzimure (Kambuzuma) Kucaca Ivumile Phulu (Nkulumane) Sichelesile Mahlangu (Pumula) and Regai Tsunga (Mutasa South) had been recalled by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)/

Biti founded PDP but the party has been dormant since he led a trek to MDC-A that is led by Nelson Chamisa.  

Little-known Benjamin Rukanda, who purported to be the PDP secretary-general wrote a letter to Mudenda, purporting that the six had left the party and joined MDC Alliance and must, therefore, be recalled.

The six approached the High Court seeking nullification of the recalls.

On 13 April 2021, High Court judge Justice Amy Tsanga ruled in their favour and said Rukanda was not the legitimate secretary-general of the PDP. The judge also said that the post belonged to Chikwinya.

Rukanda appealed against the ruling but it was thrown out by Justice Tawanda Chitapi on 28 April 2021

However, to date, Mudenda has not admitted the six MPs back into parliament.

In an interview with Grazers News, Mudenda claimed the case was still at the courts and so he could not re-admit the MPs.

“There was an appeal that was made on that case. The case is still pending at the courts,” he said.

Contacted for comment, Biti referred questions to his lawyers led by Jacob Mafume, and the former PDP secretary general, Chikwinya.

“I can’t talk (on the issue). Get in touch with Jacob Mafume and Settlement Chikwinya,” he said.

In written response to questions from Grazers News, Chikwinya insisted that the Chitapi ruling settled the matter, so the speaker had no basis to keep them away from parliament.

“Our interpretation of that order is that Rukanda’s communication, once deemed illegal, null and void, means that any action that arose from an illegal, null and void instruction becomes null and void in itself. This means that we must be re-admitted into parliament,” he said.

Mafume dismissed Mudenda’s claim that the matter was still before the courts.

“There is no appeal. The appeal which was there was thrown out. There is a judgement which is there, which the speaker (Mudenda) has decided to ignore, turning parliament into a partisan tool. He is in contempt of court by hiding behind a non-existent appeal,” he said.

Mafume indicated that Biti and the other five affected MPs could press contempt of court charge against Mudenda at the High Court.

“The option we have is to take him (Mudenda) back to court and it is high time people seek costs (of lawsuit) on a personal level relating to contemptuous public officials,” said Mafume.

Tonderai Bhatasara, another lawyer who represented Biti and the five other MPs in their court case against their recalls, also argued there was no appeal on the matter.

“There is no appeal at the Supreme Court. He (Mudenda) is politicking. My clients are exploring the route of filing a contempt of court application. After the court judgement that nullified the recalls, we reverted back to the pre-recall period by operation of law. The speaker must facilitate return of my clients to the house,” he said.

MDC Alliance deputy spokesperson, Clifford Hlatywayo, told this publication that the recalls had left voids in the recalled MPs’ constituencies.

“All the people’s representatives must be at work as they were elected to serve for a five year term. All the recalls are illegal, political and irregular,” he said.

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