The Member of Parliament for Bulawayo South Eddie Cross has been accused of leaking information that he got as a member of the Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development at a general meeting of Meikles before the committee had presented its report to the House.
The chairman of the committee David Chapfika told the House yesterday that his committee had received a complaint from the chairman of Meikles Group, John Moxon, that Cross had prematurely disclosed information that the group was not going to get $90 million that it was owed by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe because the pubic was not happy.
Cross is reported to have told the meeting on 16 October that results of the public hearings on the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Debt Assumption Bill showed that members of the public were extremely unhappy with the bailout so Meikles shareholders should disregard a statement in the Meikles financial report that it would be repaid $90 million owed by the bank.
He allegedly said this was tantamount to “counting the chickens before they were hatched”.
The government was proposing the bill to take over the central bank debt which had ballooned to $1.3 billion.
Chapfika said the committee had also noted that whilst Moxon referred in his letter that the amount due to Meikles was US$90 million, the recorded amount in the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Debt Assumption Bill was US$42 million.
He said that what Cross had done was an act of contempt of Parliament as it related to “publishing the proceedings of a committee or evidence given to a committee before its proceedings are reported to Parliament”.
Speaker Jacob Mudenda said he needed to study the matter carefully. He also said Cross was entitled to a right of reply.
COMPLAINT AGAINST HON. E. CROSS’S CONDUCT
CHAPFIKA: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. I rise to issue a statement or to advice the House of a letter of complaint received from Meikles in my capacity as Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development on allegations against Hon. E. Cross. Mr. Speaker Sir, at a meeting held on the 16th of December 2014, the Committee on Finance and Economic Development received correspondence from Mr. J. R. T. Moxon, writing in his capacity as the Chairman of the Meikles Group Limited.
Mr. Speaker Sir, Mr. Moxon wrote to you, Advocate J. F. Mudenda raising allegations of misconduct against a member of the Committee, Hon. E. Cross who is the elected Member of Parliament for Bulawayo South. In the said letter, Hon. Cross is alleged to have prematurely disclosed the committee proceedings and findings on the Reserve Bank Debt Assumption Bill as it relates to Meikles Limited Annual General Meeting before the Committee has reported its findings to the House. Mr. Moxon also alleged that Hon. Cross violated parliamentary rules by prematurely divulging the proceedings and findings of the Committee before the report of the Committee has been presented to this august House…
MAHLANGU: On a point of order Mr. Speaker Sir. My point of order is that, is this report coming from the Committee or it is a report coming from an individual? If the report is coming from an individual, it is unprocedural Mr. Speaker Sir. I thank you – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] –
SPEAKER: Order, can the hon. member be heard – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] – Order! Order! Hon. Gonese! Chief Whips!
SPEAKER consulted with the Chief Whips.
Order! Order! I am sure you all saw the whips consulting. The matter was discussed in Committee and Hon. Cross recused himself because he was the subject of discussion and therefore, we will hear what the Committee has said and the Chair will make a ruling.
CHAPFIKA: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. For the benefit of the House, this is a Committee report – a fully constituted committee report – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] – [AN HON. MEMBER: Ende Committee haina kuita agree.] –. Mr. Speaker, in the said letter Hon. Cross is alleged to have prematurely disclosed Committee proceedings and findings on the Reserve Bank Debt Assumption Bill as it relates to Meikles Limited’s Annual General Meeting before the Committee had reported its findings to the House. Mr. Moxon alleges that Hon. Cross violated parliamentary rules by prematurely divulging the proceedings and findings of the Committee before the report of the Committee has been presented to this august House.
Mr. Speaker Sir, more specifically, it is alleged that during an Annual General Meeting of Meikles Private Limited held on the 16th October 2014, Hon. Cross alleged that the results of the public hearings on the Debt Assumption Bill show that members of the public were extremely unhappy with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Debt Assumption Bill. Mr. Moxon also alleged that Hon. Cross warned Meikles shareholders to disregard the $90 million published in the Meikles Limited’s public financial statements as expected debt repayments from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, as doing so would allegedly amount to “counting the chickens before they were hatched”.
The Committee, however, observed that whilst Mr. Moxon, in his letter states that an amount due to Meikles Limited from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is US$90 million, the recorded amount in the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Debt Assumption Bill is US$42 million.
This anomaly is still subject to validation by the Committee. Mr. Moxon raises apprehension that Hon. Cross may have adversely influenced the Committee and benefitted personally by virtue of him being a shareholder of Meikles Limited and a member of the Committee.
Mr. Speaker Sir, the Committee is of the view that the allegations being raised against Hon. Cross may constitute a charge of contempt of Parliament as stipulated under Paragraph 9, Appendix B of schedule to the Privileges, Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act, more specifically the provisions relating to “publishing the proceedings of a committee or evidence given to a Committee before its proceedings committee are reported to Parliament”.
Hon. Cross’s alleged use of information gained through a Committee enquiry for his personal benefit, and for which the Committee has not reported to the House, has the potential to impair the integrity of the inquiry by the Portfolio Committee on Finance and Economic Development. Therefore, pursuant to Select Committee Rule No.13, the Committee resolved to bring these matters to the attention of the House. Select Committee Rule No. 13 states that, “If any information comes before any Select Committee charging any member, the Committee shall not proceed further upon such information but shall report it without delay to the House.”
Accordingly, the Committee hereby reports the allegations being raised by Mr. Moxon to the House and recommends that an ad hoc Committee be appointed to investigate and inquire into various allegations being raised against Hon. E. Cross. Standing Order 157 (1) of the National Assembly reads that, “Whenever it appears to the House that it is necessary to appoint an ad hoc Committee to carry out any task and the House has resolved to set up such a Committee, the Standing Rules and Orders Committee shall appoint the members of the Committee and give it its terms of reference”.
Mr. Speaker Sir, in conclusion, the Committee believes that an ad hoc Committee as stated in Standing Order 157 of the National Assembly provides a constitutional safeguard for all interested and affected parties, including Hon. Cross to give evidence and their version of events. This will ensure that the principles of natural justice are upheld. Therefore, Mr. Speaker Sir, we propose that an ad hoc Committee be appointed to exclusively and exhaustively inquire into the alleged misconduct and report to the House – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] –
SPEAKER: Order! Order! In the interest of natural justice, it will be fair that this matter is carefully studied by the Chair in view of the fact that the alleged perpetrator, if I may say so, Hon. Cross has a right of reply and accordingly, the Chair will study the matter and make a ruling accordingly in the interest of natural justice.