MDC MP's flag jacket case deferred

HARARE - The court hearing of Mutasa Central MDC legislator Trevor Saruwaka’s legal challenge to his ejection from the National Assembly last October for wearing a jacket with the country’s flag colours has been deferred to June 22.

In the application, Saruwaka cited speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda and the chief security officer of Parliament as respondents.

High Court judge Lavender Makoni postponed the matter yesterday “to look at certain issues” surrounding the case.

In his court application, Saruwaka argued that Mudenda has no right to determine the colour of clothes he wears while in the National Assembly.

Saruwaka, who approached the High Court after he was thrown out from the National Assembly, said his ejection for wearing the flag-coloured jacket was unlawful and an infringement on his right to freedom of conscience and religion.

He further argued there is no provision in the Standing Rules and Orders of Parliament that bars him from wearing such colours.

Saruwaka, who is represented by Kudzai Kadzere from Kadzere, Hungwe & Mandevere Legal Practitioners, said he is an avowed follower of the Rastafari religion, adding that the colours on his jacket were synonymous with his religion.

“…it is respectfully submitted that, applicant (Saruwaka) being of the Rastafari religion has a right to freedom of conscience and religion in terms of Section 60 of the Constitution which right includes the right to propagate his religious beliefs whether in private or in public within the confines of the law.

“By arbitrarily denying applicant (Saruwaka) access to the National Assembly, respondents have elevated themselves above the Constitution without lawful cause. There is no legal basis upon which applicant can be barred from entering the National Assembly,” he argued.

He said he is entitled to the protection of the law.

“It is further submitted that, respondents do not have the power to determine the colour of the jacket applicant wears. The respondents are therefore acting outside the scope of their powers by ejecting applicant from National Assembly sessions on account of wearing the jacket in question,” he said.

He further said that according to the provisions of Standing Order 76 (7), only jeans, T-shirts and sleeveless outfits, are prohibited from the National Assembly.

“Nowhere is it mentioned that jackets such as the one worn by the applicant are prohibited,” he said, adding that his jacket does not in any way offend the national flag.

Saruwaka’s National Assembly “drama” took place after Mudenda ruled in June last year that the national flag would not be allowed in the House following a plethora of protests against President Robert Mugabe’s rule under the #ThisFlag campaign.

Several MDC parliamentarians, including Saruwaka, had entered the house with national flags draped on their necks.

The national flag became a protest symbol after it was popularised by cleric Evan Mawarire of #ThisFlag movement.

The pressure group demanded Mugabe’s resignation, citing government’s failure to deal with corruption, nepotism and a serious economic meltdown.

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