HARARE - There was furore in Parliament yesterday after Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda shielded Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko from answering questions about his continued stay in a five-star Harare hotel since 2014 at taxpayers’ expense.
Mphoko will this week cloak exactly 15 months since he occupied the Presidential suite in the Rainbow Towers in Harare together with his wife, a grandchild and his personal aides.
Mphoko sought a home in the hotel after rejecting some mansions in Harare’s leafy suburbs on the grounds that they were not befitting a person of his stature.
His stay at the hotel has been met with widespread criticism from ordinary Zimbabweans reeling under the effects of a struggling economy.
Opposition MDC MP for Mabvuku-Tafara James Maridadi sought to have Mphoko explain his continued stay, said to have gobbled over $300 000 in taxpayers’ funds.
But Mudenda leapt to Mphoko’s defence, ruling that Maridadi must submit written questions.
“This is pertaining to him so he would not need to refer to anything other than that…”, Maridadi attempted to explain, but was asked to take his seat by Mudenda, causing rancour from opposition benches.
“May I remind honourable members that the questions to be asked are only on policy? With all due respect, honourable Maridadi, if you want to ask a specific issue you can do that through written questions,” Mudenda said, provoking remonstrations from Maridadi.
“Don’t argue with the chair,” Mudenda said. “I have given you the opportunity to speak. I have asked you to put your question in writing,” he added.
Further attempts by Maridadi to have Mphoko respond to the question were quashed at every turn by the Speaker, even when the legislator sought to rephrase his question.
This prompted the intervention of the MDC chief whip Innocent Gonese on a point of order, demanding that Mudenda respects the mandate that MPs carry from their constituencies.
“I believe that when we are in this house, we are mandated to take the business of the house seriously and also the issues that affect this country… But I haven’t articulated, I have not finished, when someone is raising a point…” Gonese said, with Mudenda threatening to eject the opposition legislators out of the house.
“Order! Order!” Mudenda thundered.
“I think the chair has been generous enough. I said the member can put his question in writing . . . The question relating to the honourable vice president staying in the hotel can be asked in writing, so you are not excluded, put it in writing.”
This comes as leading civil society group has condemned Mphoko’s continued stay in the hotel, at a time Zimbabwe’s fiscus is bleeding.