Parliament has asked the Constitutional Court to block Mityana Municipality Member of Parliament Francis Zaake from returning to the Parliamentary Commission.
According to Parliament, they were aggrieved by the decision of the four Justices of the constitutional court against one, to declare that the resolution to impeach Zaake as a Parliamentary Commission was illegal.
On September 28th, 2023, the Constitutional Court, in a majority decision, court ruled that Deputy Speaker Anita Among, who presided over the matter, violated the principles of natural justice by not recusing herself as the complainant.
According to the justices, Among acted with bias by presiding over her own case, according to Justice Irene Mulyagonja, who wrote the lead judgment. Mulyagonja explained that Among’s failure to address her conflict of interest reflected bias and a breach of the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament. The case originated from a petition by Zaake challenging his removal from the parliamentary commission for alleged indiscipline, based on a report by the Rules, Discipline, and Privileges Committee.
The committee had found him in breach of trust and decorum following his criticism of the Speaker on social media. The Court stated that there was no quorum when the resolution was passed, and the motion was irregularly added to the order paper.
Furthermore, the Court criticized Among for not heeding advice from the Leader of the Opposition to postpone the proceedings until the late Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah who had been indisposed, could return to preside.
However, the Court upheld the Privileges Committee’s report and recommended its implementation, clarifying that there was no need for an injunction to halt the resolution’s implementation since it had already been invalidated.
Following the Constitutional Court decision, the Attorney General appealed to the Supreme Court and also filed an application for a stay of execution and another seeking interim orders in the Constitutional Court.
On Friday Parliament through its Assistant Director of Litigation and Advisory Services Elisha Bafirawara together with State Attorney Sam Tusubira from the Attorney General’s Chambers told the Constitutional Court Registrar Allen Rukundo Owembabazi that there is a looming threat of execution of the judgment and orders of the majority justices before the hearing of their application for stay of execution and the appeal in the supreme court.
They said that Zaake’s lawyers wrote two letters demanding reinstatement to his office.
“Your Worship, without diving into the merits of the application, the respondent/Zaake has attempted or has indeed threatened to execute the orders in the judgment. And this is because there are two letters written by his lawyers furthering that threat of execution, one is attached to the application dated October 2nd and the other 20th October”, said Tusubira.
Tusubira added that Zaake even personally went to the precincts of Parliament to carry out that execution.
The lawyers told the court that the judgment has effects on the normal operations of Parliament given the declarations that were made therein and that if the Registrar had jurisdiction, they would have asked for an interim order to stop Zaake from returning to his job.
They further indicated that if their case is not considered and heard as a matter of urgency, Zaake is most likely to file an application for contempt of court because the orders are self-executing.
They said there is a need to preserve the status quo pending the hearing and determination of the substantive application for stay of execution or else the appeal in the Supreme Court will be rendered nugatory.
However, Zaake’s lawyers led by Eron Kiiza said they needed more time to respond to the application despite having been served on November 3rd, 2023.
Kiiza said that the lead Counsel for Zaake’s legal team Erias Lukwago is out of the country and prayed to be given at least two weeks to make a written response to the applications.
He noted that if Parliament observes that he is asking for too much time, they should implement the Constitutional Court decision otherwise he is not prepared to face a panel for a hearing because they also need Lukwago to help them frame out issues that require constitutional determination.
In response, Tusubira further said that whereas Kiiza is keen on giving time to Lukwago, they are not giving the Attorney General time and keeping in line with the directives given by this court on November 3rd, 2023. He asked the court to forward the file to the panel for adjudication hoping that the applications would be entertained, and both parties would get justice.
In her decision, Rukundo granted Kiiza one day to file a response and the Attorney General to also make a rejoinder to it by Monday. She added that afterward, she will forward the file to the Constitutional Court for the Justices to hear the matter when all the necessary documents have been put on record.
In its appeal, Parliament argues that the majority of the Justices of the Constitutional Court erred in law and fact when they arrived at their consequential decision and orders.
Speaking to Ugannda Radio Network, Zaake indicated that he has never been a threat to Parliament.
Zaake’s troubles began when he criticized the speaker on social media for her comments during a plenary session honoring legislators and parliamentary staff who had participated in the East African Legislative Assembly Games in Tanzania.
During the plenary, Anita joked that despite allegedly sustaining a broken leg following torture by state security, Zaake had won a gold medal for parliament in the 100-meter race.
Anita’s comments came at a time when legislators were complaining about the increasing cases of torture perpetrated by security agencies. Among directed the committee to investigate Zaake following a motion by the Gulu City Barledge Division MP, Ojara Mapenduzi over allegations of abusing the speaker using his social media handle.
Dissatisfied with the impeachment resolution, Zaake successfully challenged the resolution.