Lawyers and pro-democracy groups yesterday called on President Emmerson Mnangagwa to fire his Home Affairs minister — Obert Mpofu for his unprecedented attack on Parliament — which they said was despicable and bordered on gross misconduct.
Mpofu — who is a former Mines minister — blew his fuse in Parliament on Thursday after clashing with Mines and Energy committee chairperson Temba Mliswa over the country’s missing $15 billion revenue from the gem-rich Chiadzwa diamonds fields.
The burly Zanu PF secretary for administration later vowed never to appear before the Mines and Energy committee to answer any questions relating to the missing funds as long as Mliswa was not presiding over the emotive issue — also suggesting damagingly that the garrulous Norton legislator had at some point sought a bribe from him.
Mpofu’s tantrum sparked anger among the gathered MPs who called for him to be slapped with stiff sanctions which he said, however, would have little effect on him — as he had been in Parliament for more than three decades, and thus knew how to deal with the august House’s procedures.
Yesterday Mpofu came in for heavy criticism for his show on Thursday, with lawyers and radical pressure groups calling for his immediate expulsion from government.
Constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku told the Daily News that Mpofu’s actions were unprecedented in the history of parliamentary democracy that “there is no sensible minister who says to the legislature — in front of the whole world, because the whole world was watching— I will not cooperate”.
“The committee must prepare a report and present it to Parliament, which will in turn set up a Privileges Committee that will investigate if the minister was in contempt.
“If it recommends that he is guilty of contempt, there are a lot of measures to be taken including barring him from Parliament or recommend him to be removed as minister.
“The best approach would be to report him to the president so that he will be removed from being a minister. They can argue that his conduct was gross and therefore he is not fit to be a minister,” Madhuku told the Daily News.
He said the other option was to fine Mpofu since the new Constitution removed a provision for a jail term.
In 2005, the late former MDC treasurer-general Roy Bennett, then MP for Chimanimani, was jailed after he floored the then Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa.
Radical pressure group — #Tajamuka/Sesijikile which in 2016 fought spiritedly to have former president Robert Mugabe impeached — yesterday waded into the Mpofu debate by imploring Mnangagwa to censure his Home Affairs minister.
Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda told the Daily News that he was awaiting a report from Mliswa’s committee.
“We are waiting for that report to come to Parliament first for tabling then from there we will know what happens.
“It must be noted that the report is not brought to me directly but that it will be tabled by the committee in Parliament so I am not the one to say whether or not the minister acted in contempt of Parliament,” Mudenda said.
Thursday’s fracas erupted after Mpofu had been summoned to Parliament to help explain the missing $15 billion worth of the precious stones from Marange, as the government hunts for elusive answers on the emotive issue.
“I am not the minister of Mines and I don’t know which precedence has been set where former ministers are subjected to questioning on issues to do with ministries that they have already left. I have no mandate to speak about the ministry of Mines,” Mpofu bellowed.
The minister had made it clear from the beginning of proceedings that he had no time for the committee, also telling Mliswa bluntly that he could not be lectured on how Parliament worked.
This prompted Mliswa to ask him to withdraw the statement, which he flatly refused to do.
Mpofu said further that he had taken an oath of secrecy as a minister and would also not accept to be abused by Mliswa, whom he accused of besmirching his image.
At that point, MDC MP for Zengeza West, Simon Chidhakwa, said if Mpofu did not want to appear before the committee, he was supposed to openly say so — to which the minister responded by saying that he had been in the House of Assembly since 1987 and thus understood what he was saying and doing.
The combative Mpofu also claimed that Mliswa had once travelled 600 kilometres to his house, where the Norton MP had allegedly sought to discuss the same issues.
But Mliswa shot back saying Mpofu was trying to divert from the issue at hand, and adding that the said visit had occurred when Mliswa was still in Zanu PF and the two had simply discussed politics — including former ruling party bigwig Didymus Mutasa’s exit from the former liberation movement.
Mpofu then asked for a break to wash his hands, before coming back and stating emphatically that he would not say anything more as long as Mliswa was chairing the committee.
“For as long as he is sitting in front of me, presiding over this issue, I will not co-operate. You are even refusing me a chance to say what he had come to do at my house.
“With respect to honourable members, I will never, never be presided over by … Mliswa for what has happened and you should allow me to express myself.
“I am not going to talk. I have submitted myself to you and I will not talk about this issue … no matter what you say, I will never say anything … you don’t know me …” Mpofu thundered.