In a sudden twist of events, three Tanzanian legislators have announced to withdraw their signatures in the petition to oust the Speaker of the East African Legislative Assembly, Dr Margaret Nantongo-Zziwa.
Ms Shy-Rose Bhanji, who was once at the forefront in the mission to oust the speaker, caused uproar in the House yesterday when she rose to declare that the motive was already void and that Dr Zziwa was there to stay, because Tanzania has pulled out of the process.
But another legislator from Tanzania, Mr Abdallah Mwinyi, wished to differ; pointing out that his signature was still on, to support the ‘speaker’s removal’ order, thus Ms Bhanji should speak for herself and not include the entire nation.
“The rules are clear. For the order to be valid, each of the five member states should produce at least four votes; now that Mr Adam Kimbisa, Ms Mariam Ussi-Yahya and I have withdrawn, there are only two signatures remaining; that of Mr Mwinyi and Dr Perpetua Kessy,” said Ms Bhanji maintaining that Tanzania therefore cannot be counted.
When the notice to unseat Speaker Zziwa was filled last March by Mr Peter Mathuki, a legislator from Kenya, it got immediate support from Ms Bhanji from Tanzania, Dr Odette Nyiramilimo from Rwanda and Ms Hafsa Mossi from Burundi.
Asked why her sudden change of mind, Ms Bhanji claimed that she suspected there were some hidden, but dubious motives behind the whole process to oust the EALA speaker, especially because of late she was being secluded from the entire development.
Counsel to the East African Community (CTC), Dr Wilbert Kaahwa, however, explained that it was too late for the Tanzanian trio, Ms Bhanji, Ms Kimbisa and Ms Ussi-Yahya to withdraw from the procedure because as a rule, the legislators’ signatures were only needed during the first process of filing the order.
“The order has already been filed and the House is on the second stage of taking the document before the legal committee which is then going to investigate the charges against the Speaker before issuing its own recommendations,” stated Dr Kaahwa.
Poor governance and lack of leadership skills, abuse of office, disrespect and intimidation of members and staff and loss of confidence and trust by members were among the reasons cited by EALA members in their quest to give the speaker the sack.
She was alleged to display inability to perform the functions of her office, arising from claimed cases of misconduct, poor governance and inadequate leadership skills; abuse of office; disrespect and intimidation of members and staff; and loss of confidence and trust by House members.
Among other issues include unilaterally involving members of her family in the services of the assembly such as irregular hiring of staff without consulting the commission, and bringing family members to play in the Inter-Parliamentary EAC netball games, where these family members were favoured by the Speaker above the EALA members’ staff, being paid over US $ 3000 for their participation in the event.
Other reasons include family interventions in the Assembly affairs — in particular, the Speaker’s husband, who would participate in EALA matters despite being an outsider, rendering interventions were in some instances disruptive, disrespectful and posed veiled threats to members.
The Speaker is also accused of favouring some few EALA members through offering them overseas trips with hefty allowances, while the rest are not allowed totravel, a move which has been splitting the House.
The EALA legislators’ initial move to remove the Speaker was supported by 33 out of 45 legislators making up the regional assembly and they included all nine members from Burundi, all nine members from Rwanda, five from Tanzania, five from Uganda, and five from Kenya.
Now with the latest developments, there are 30 legislators who want the speaker kicked out and 15 opposing the move. However, odds will overwhelmingly remain against Dr Zziwa should the House get to vote in the long run after the legal committee’s decision.
Last week, the First Instance Division of the East African Court of Justice declined to grant interim injunctions sought in the Applications filed by the EALA speaker, Dr Zziwa and Mbidde Foundation Limited (Applicants).
The injunctions were filed against the Secretary General of the East African Community and the Attorney General of the Republic of Uganda (Respondents) directing EALA to refrain from referring the motions for resolution to remove the speaker of EALA to the allegedly improperly constituted Committee on Legal, Rules and Privileges.
The applicants also sought an order against the EALA Committee on Legal, Rules and Privileges to refrain from conducting any investigation in this matter pending the hearing and determination of the main case and hence Application was dismissed.
The Court in its ruling said that at this stage the presentation of the petition before the EALA Assembly was in compliance with the Treaty as prescribed under Rule 9 (4) of the Assembly’s Rules of procedure which states that: “The motion will be tabled in the Assembly within seven days of its receipt by the Clerk and the House shall refer the motion to the committee on Legal, Rules and Privileges to investigate and report its findings to the Assembly for debate.”
EACJ added that no material was valid to the Court as this would suggest that the Rules on procedure of the impeachment of the EALA Speaker was an infringement of the Treaty for the establishment of the East African Community as alleged by the Applicant.
The Court further added that the removal of the Speaker of the Assembly is the function of EALA as provided by Article 53 of the Treaty and the procedure of that is clearly detailed in the Rules of the Assembly.