THE HON. SPEAKER: Order, order! Hon. Mliswa, you were heard in silence. I thank Hon. Biti for his point of privilege. Let me correct one misconception about Hon. Mamombe. Hon. Mamombe was not picked during the Committee Business. We had completed the business, on our way to Harare and the officers who came were very civil. They approached me and said they wanted Hon. Mamombe to present herself and make a statement at the charge office. I took some details of one of them who was leading that group and indicated to them that I did not want any harassment at all of the Hon. Member of Parliament. The Hon. Member is innocent until proven guilty and the officers did admit to me that they will not in any way harm the Hon. Member and I said you can proceed.
If they had come during the Committee Business, on that score, they would not be allowed to touch her. Infact, she was not even touched. It was a verbal communication, neither was she hand-cuffed at all and subsequently, Hon. Gonese phoned me and I gave him the details of the officer who indicated that he could be contacted. Hon. Gonese indicated that law and order were looking for Hon. Mamombe and communication had taken place with the Officer-in-Charge and I said I hope procedure will be followed and that Hon. Mamombe at any given time should not be harassed at all.
On the question of protecting Members of Parliament, I think Hon. Biti put it extremely well. All of us are not above the law. We can be offenders if we have committed an offence and due process of criminal procedure or civil procedure can be entertained accordingly. When Members of Parliament (MPs) are within the premises of Parliament, the Privileges Act is very clear. Nobody will touch them but when they are outside there, Parliament is not aware of the activities of any MP in terms of their public behaviour. On that score, it may be very difficult to come in between the Judiciary and the law enforcement agencies.
If Hon. Biti is appealing for some measure of how the arresting officers can or should approach MPs who are suspected of some offence, then we need to tighten up our Privileges Act so that it clearly states what Hon. Biti has said. So, until we amend the Privileges Act that there be some degree of respect given to Hon. Members when they are suspected of having committed a crime, that they are approached in a decent manner, a manner that does not impugn on their dignity.
As you are all aware, our Constitution and our laws indicate that any suspected person of having committed a crime is innocent until proved guilty. On that score, the approach to the Hon. Members should be with some measure of decency and respect of the status of the Hon. Members in society. This is how I think we should approach the manner. If, for example, Hon. Sikhala is suspected to have committed a crime and the police are looking for him and I hear that the police are looking for him, I cannot say police should stop looking for Hon. Sikhala. I will be accused – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] – Order, order, order, order!
I may be accused of obstructing the course of justice. I think what Hon. Biti is raising is the manner in which the Hon. Members must be treated under such circumstances. That is fundamental. But for Parliament or the Speaker to intervene when the law enforcement agencies are looking for someone who is an MP, I need to respect the sacred arrangement that the three arms of state must act differently, respecting their roles as different organs. The separation of powers principles have got to be respected.
At the same time, I must warn some members, including – where is my friend Hon. Mutseyami who makes some statements against the Speaker. There are certain things you cannot just state publicly – this is what we have done to respond to Hon. Tabitha’s letter. We can approach the issues in a manner which some people may call ‘quiet diplomacy’ to avoid being accused of obstructing the course of justice. One has got to be very careful about that. So, making statements like the Hon. Speaker did not do anything about it is wrong. I want to emphasise that what happened to Hon. Mamombe – for those who were there, she was treated with dignity. When she wanted to have a private conversation with me, she approached me and told me her concerns and so on. I indicated to her that if there is anything that should happen, let us know, we will deal with the situation.
What I wanted was a clean arrest so that if there is any harassment, I even indicated to the officers that they were going to put the Government into a very invidious position in the process of re-engagement. We must be civil in our arrest. This is what I told the officers and as they were leaving, they said, aiwa Hon. Speaker, the Hon. Member ndishefu wedu. They took her bag from her and carried it themselves – [Laughter.] – Order, order, order! This applies also to Hon. MPs who are also Ministers, they must be approached with some sense of dignity and not arrest them as if they have been tried already and they have been found guilty. I do not think that is the way we should do things.
I hear you Hon. Biti. Let us look at the Privileges Act and polish it up so that it is water tight to protect the dignity of MPs.
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