Tanzania: Seven Opposition MPs Handed Lengthy Bans

Parliament yesterday voted to suspend seven outspoken opposition MPs for violating Standing orders during the January session.

Chairperson of the Privileges, Ethics and Powers Committee George Mkuchika said five Chadema MPs - Ms Esther Bulaya (Bunda Urban), Mr Tundu Lissu (Singida East), Ms Halima Mdee (Kawe), Ms Pauline Gekul (Babati Urban) and Godbless Lema (Arusha Urban) - and Mr Zitto Kabwe (Kigoma Urban-ACT Wazalendo) had been suspended from attending the rest of the budget sitting.

Mr Mkuchika (Newala-CCM) told the House that Ms Bulaya and Lissu were barredfrom attending the whole of the fourth parliamentary meeting scheduled for September as additional punishment.

Mr Mkuchika, who who presented the motion to suspend the MPs in January, said Chadema's Tarime Rural MP John Heche was barred from attending ten sessions. He said the punishment varied depending on the seriousness of the charges levelled against them.

They were suspended after the Privileges, Ethics and Powers Committee found them guilty of contempt of Standing orders.

Under Standing Order number 74 (1), the Speaker of the National Assembly can mention the name of a parliamentarian who has undermined the Speaker's authority and forward the same to the Privileges, Ethics and Powers Committee for disciplinary action.

If the committee is satisfied that the MP is indeed actually did a misconduct, it can proposed that the MP be banned from attending parliamentary sessions not exceeding ten if he or she is first offender.

Their penalties relate to incident which occurred on January 27, after a number of opposition MPs staged a stand in to protest the decision to cut live coverage of Parliamentary proceedings.

Yesterday, Mr Mkuchika said after conducting investigation into the issue, including interrogating them, the committee established that their actions amounted to contempt of the Standing Orders.

Speaking after being suspended, most of them dismissed then move noting that it was politically motivated.

Last week three of the five were summoned by the Committee to defend themselves over the alleged misconduct. Mr Kabwe, Ms Mdee and Mr Heche appeared before the committee to state why they had revived in Parliamentary an issue which had already been determined.

While Mr Kabwe and Ms Mdee defended themselves, Mr Heche was represented by his lawyer, Mr James Millya.

Mr Kabwe noted that though there was opportunity for him to appeal he was not going to do so.

"This is a calculated political move aimed at gagging us. They don't want us to be present during the debate on the national budget next week. Therefore, I am not going to appeal," he said.

Ms Mdee told The Citizen she will also employ political means to counter the penalty against her.

"We will go around the country to tell people why they have suspended us. We know that they don't want us to continue hammering the government inside Parliament, we are going to do it outside Parliament," she said.

She warned however that Parliament should also make sure that the move to penalise them, was in line with the standing Orders.

Ms Bulaya said also that she had heard that she was going to be suspended.

"Yes, I have heard that this evening Parliament will pass a motion suspending some of us. I know that they don't want us to be present during the Budget debate," she said.

Source: The Citizen