By A Correspondent | Chalton Hwende, a Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) lawmaker from Kuwadzana East, has asked the Speaker of Parliament to provide an explanation for why Kennedy Chokuda, the under investigation Clerk of Parliament, continues to report to work despite his involvement in a dubious computer purchase tender.
Chokuda was detained by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) in April as a result of a corruption incident in which he botched the deal to buy 173 computers from Blinart Investments at an exorbitant price of US$9,264 each, causing a public uproar.
By negotiating a lower price for the computers with a business that had submitted its proposal, he was accused of criminal abuse of power and acting against and inconsistently with his obligations as a public servant.
According to the state, Chokuda should have complied with Section 52 of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (Praz) Act, which details an accounting officer’s actions when the lowest evaluated responding bidder’s cost exceeds the allocated budget.
Chokuda and Parliament’s director of procurement Stanley Bhebhe were each given a ZW$100,000 bond and are scheduled to appear in court on May 31.
Hwende questioned this week in Parliament why no action has been taken against Chokuda, claiming that this brings Parliament into contempt.
The Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Mudenda, prevented the National Assembly from looking into the findings of the Gold Mafia documentary by the international television network Al Jazeera, thus tarnishing the integrity of the Parliament.
The scandal made it clear that tightly-knit syndicates, all connected to Mnangagwa, had been engaged in gold smuggling and money laundering with the help of the government.
The debate went as follows:
HON. HWENDE: I have a point of order and there are two issues. The first issue which you can rule is whether as a Speaker you have got the power to change a resolution that has been made in a plenary by Parliament. That, you can rule.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: That, I cannot rule.
HON. HWENDE: My second point of order is that this is a serious issue. We have seen that the Clerk, Mr. Chokuda, someone who is facing corruption charges after the laptop issue is still part of your procession and is the one who is taking lead to advise you on an issue of such importance that involves corruption that has never been witnessed in this country. We want an explanation also on why Mr. Chokuda is still coming to Parliament because he is bringing this institution of Parliament into serious disrepute. You cannot face serious charges of wanting to buy a laptop for US$9 000 and still come to Parliament and advise our Speaker. Those two matters Madam Speaker, I am sure you are capable of ruling so that we can proceed.
The other one, we will wait for the Speaker because we had come here today prepared for him but we can wait for him but on those two, please can you help us with a ruling.
THE HON. DEPUTY SPEAKER: Hon. Hwende, I think on that one you are a bit out of order – [HON. HWENDE: On which one?] – Both, I told you that I am not able to rule on the second issue. On Mr. Chokuda’s issue, I am sure you know that he was taken by ZACC and ZACC is still doing some investigations – [HON. HWENDE: He has gone to court.] – So, if it is before the courts, we cannot talk about it in this House. You know very well that we cannot talk about it in this House.
HON. HWENDE: This matter Madam Speaker, has passed the ZACC stage. Mr. Chokuda appeared in court and he was given bail. If he appeared in court and the case is still before the courts, we cannot discuss about it in this House please – [HON. HWENDE: Why is he coming to work interacting with the same worker that he is supposed to be investigated for. He is interfering with investigations and today he is helping you to stop gold mafia investigation.] – No, Hon. Hwende, please take your seat. I will not allow you to do that, please take your seat – [HON. HWENDE: What are you not going to allow? The issue is very simple Madam Speaker. I have two issues that I have requested you to make a ruling on. As Parliament, we have a right not to be given advice by someone who is facing serious corruption charges and these charges happened here in Parliament. The same workers that were procuring the laptops are still here. Why is he coming to work facing corruption charges?
HON. T. MLISWA: My point of order is that we will waste a lot of time here Hon. Members. I think Madam Speaker, with all senses together has clearly said she cannot respond to what the Speaker said, especially him being the head of Parliament and he must respond. We must respect that.
Secondly on the Clerk’s issue, we did an enquiry. Why is the report not being tabled in Parliament on the recommendations? We must be very clear now that it is ZACC that determines whether he is given bail or not and Parliament does not control the processes of the court. We tabled a report. You must be asking where the report is. The Chairman must table the report, we debate and there are recommendations. He sits in the Committee of Public Accounts. Why has the Chairman not tabled the report then we can debate it? It has recommendations. Let us follow procedure and not just be emotional.
We are waiting for the report to be tabled in Parliament so that everybody can contribute but if the report is not there, let us not get excited. The Public Accounts Committee must table the report so that it is debated and there are recommendations we came up with. You are seasoned politicians, do not behave like kindergarten politicians. Madam Speaker is correct there. The Chairman is going to table the report Hon. Hwende. When is it going to be tabled? I asked in the meeting last week that where is the report so that it is tabled in Parliament and we will listen to the recommendations. Those are the procedures and processes of Parliament. This is not a CCC Parliament, this is a Parliament for the nation which is based on records and facts. Pedzisai ma primary elections enyu, hatitomboziva kuti ari kucontester ndiani – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] – [HON. BITI: Zvema primary edu zvapinda papi?]