Judgment reserved in Chombo's appeal

HARARE - The Supreme Court yesterday reserved judgment in an appeal made by Local Government, Rural and Urban Development minister Ignatius Chombo that Parliament cannot debate amendments to curtail his wide-ranging powers.

Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, sitting with Justices Paddington Garwe, Annie-Marie Gowora, Vernanda Ziyambi, and Yunus Omerjee reserved judgment and promised to deliver it before elections.

Chombo is being represented by Terence Hussein, whilst Parliament is represented by Simplicius Chihambakwe.

MDC MP for Buhera Central Tangwara Matimba moved a motion to amend the Urban Councils Act in February last year.

The Private Members Bill was seconded by Simon Hove, MDC MP for Highfield.

Chombo approached the Supreme Court, seeking to halt Parliament from debating the motion.

“I brought my complaint before the House of Assembly and these complains have been ignored.  I am left with no other remedy but to approach this honourable court for a declaratory order,” Chombo said in his court papers.

“In terms of parliamentary practice and procedure, I and other parliamentarians objected to the introduction of the Amendment Bill. This was to no avail. I then formally lodged an objection to the introduction of the said Bill to the respondents. My objections were overruled and this was communicated to me by a letter on March 22, 2012 by the clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma.”    

The application is opposed by Matimba and Hove, movers of the motion and Parliament’s presiding officers Speaker Lovemore Moyo, Senate president Ednah Madzongwe and clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma.

Hove argues Chombo never objected to the motion being debated in Parliament or issued a ministerial statement which as is expected from him when a motion is adopted.

“On February 29 (2012) the Urban Councils Amendment Bill was read for the first time in the House of Assembly and it was referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) for the usual vetting but the applicant did not raise any objections,” Hove argues in his court papers.

“On March 21, 2012 and in the House of Assembly, the second respondent (Moyo) announced that he had received a non-adverse  report from the PLC and again no objections were raised nor received  from applicant (Chombo).”

The Urban Councils Amendment Bill seeks to curb the powers of the minister to stop him from summarily dismissing MDC councillors and mayors.

Chombo in his Supreme Court papers argued that for the duration of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), Article 20 implicitly imposes a temporary suspension on the introduction of Private Members Bills.

 He also argued that only the executive had the right to curtail his powers not Parliament.

The Speaker of the House of Assembly Lovemore Moyo suspended debate on the Bill on May 15, 2012 because the matter was subjudice as a result of court proceedings instituted by Chombo.

After the Speaker’s ruling, there were no further proceedings on the Urban Councils Amendment Bill.

According to Urban Council Act Section 29.15, the minister is empowered to run the city council affairs and appoint a commission to run city council affairs.

Councils are being run by town clerks and appointed commissions with special councillors appointed by Chombo.

Chombo has been on a warpath with the MDC executive mayors and councillors since 2002 resulting in the expulsion of Harare executive mayor Elias Mudzuri in 2003, and subsequently Chitungwiza mayor Misheck Shoko, Misheck Kagurabadza and Brian James for Mutare.

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