The deputy speaker of parliament Anita Among has allegedly rejected a private apology from Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake.
Sources who preferred anonymity in order not to jeopardize their relationship with the powerful deputy speaker, said Zaake went to Anita’s office with a written apology but she declined accepting it, instead asking him to use the same channels he used while slandering her.
“He came to her office with a letter asking for forgiveness but she said she wants him to say those words on his social media pages. She tried to give him time but it seems there were other forces against this public apology,” our source said.
The source further added that other MPs on the opposition including their leader Mathias Mpuuga Nsamba too tried to reach out to the deputy speaker to forgive Zaake but she stuck to her guns of demanding a public apology.
Zaake allegedly used his social media platforms; Facebook and Twitter to castigate Among for trying to suggest that he was not tortured has since deleted the messages. Among while congratulating the parliamentary team for winning medals in the East African Parliamentary games congratulated Zaake for winning a gold medal in athletics despite the fact that he had previously sustained broken legs after he was tortured.
Known for not taking prisoners, Zaake called out the deputy speaker using a language that MPs said was not only disrespectful to the person of Among but also the whole institution of parliament.
Another source close to Zaake’s party National Unity Platform told URN that NUP president Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu is one of those who asked Zaake not to make a public apology.
“He reasoned that that would portray him in bad light among our supporters because it would look like he is fighting for positions like many of our party colleagues have been accused of,” the source said.
In the end, 155 MPs against four, voted in favour of censure and the motion was carried despite of cries from the opposition that several rules of procedure were broken in the process. Another source close to Kyagulanyi said that he is not going to make another appointment to fill Zaake’s position.
“He says he has already made his choice and he will not be appointing another person. Zaake is going to be reappointed in the same position and if he is rejected, then we shall petition court because so many illegalities were committed,” the source said.
David Lewis Rubongoya, the secretary general of NUP said they haven’t yet met to agree on their next course of action, they agree with a court process to overturn the parliamentary decision.
“We have not yet made that decision, we’re still challenging the removal of Hon. Zaake from that office including using all legal means and this is mainly done by our parliamentary team led by the leader of the opposition. He addressed a press conference yesterday and talked about some of the efforts taken moving forward including the legal avenues. It is an urgent matter that any judge or court should treat with the urgency it deserves because you know this is about accountability over an organ of government and the parliamentary commission is an important organ,” said Rubongoya.
Rubongoya said as the party, they take what happened in parliament as another affront on NUP but said it will not stop them from pushing for change in the country. On whether the party had sanctioned Zaake to have private amends with the deputy speaker, Rubongoya said they had no objection to it provided that he didn’t apologize.
“We believe that Zaake didn’t commit any offence. We believe that it is the deputy speaker who should have appeared before that committee on rules and privileges to answer questions because it is her who first mocked him yet the public knows how many times Zaake has been tortured. So there wouldn’t be any reason why Zaake would apologize to her. However, there were efforts to resolve the issue amicably but didn’t involve Zaake apologizing to the deputy speaker,” Rubongoya said.
Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, the MP for Kira municipality and Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) whip said it is wrong for parliament to seek to reprimand an MP for having misunderstandings with the speaker. He said moving forward, there must be a non-legalistic mechanism through which disagreements can be resolved.
“I think matters of socialisation, matters of relationship between MPs themselves, speakers and ministers, in my view need to be handled administratively. If an MP insults a speaker, a speaker slaps you, for me I think we need to sit somewhere and speak to ourselves because we live together. Zaake remains an MP. The moment the relationship has not been repaired for example, if the speaker doesn’t choose you will think that maybe she’s still pursuing me or the speaker may not pick you to speak in parliament because is angry with you. For me, I think there must be mechanisms to repair relationships other than sanctions. That is my view about relationships between MPs and MPs and MPs and speakers. Unfortunately, NRM MPs politicised the handling of this matter and chose to do it the way they did. We can now speak about the postmortem. But going forward and I will try to speak to parliament, I think those matters need to be handled differently,” said Ssemujju.
On whether Zaake should apologize to parliament in seven weeks like Among ordered, Ssemujju said that would be double jeopardy because censuring him was punishment enough. Ssemujju himself in the ninth parliament had a fallout with the then deputy speaker Jacob Oulanyah who ordered the police to drag him out of the parliamentary chambers. Ssemujju declined to apologize to Oualanyah after his automatic suspension for three sittings.
“A removal is punishment, and I think the laws don’t allow double punishment because if you have removed someone, so he apologises to achieve what? You have already sentenced me and sanctioned me but it is the same problem that we faced when we were chased from parliament by Hon. Oulanyah and then he came back…and that is why I refused to apologise because the rules require that if I’m suspended, I return after 3 sittings. When I returned, he said now apology. I said no no I can’t apologise. I think the MPs are taking it too far…These are personal decisions.”
“For me when it was my turn, I refused to apologise but there are others who have apologised…For me I refused to apologise and that is me. They had to lift me from parliament. I don’t want others to do what I do. When the speaker asked to go to the bar and apologise, I refused and said I can’t and he had to bring policemen to lift me out of parliament. So the Hon. Zaake has a decision to make. Does he want to behave like a Ssemujju or he wants to behave like some other people. There is a loss by the way, I went and the coats were all torn. So there is a cost to all these decisions and you must be prepared for them. For me I was prepared, if they wanted to kill me, I said they can kill me and that is me when I know this is truth, you can kill me.” said Ssemujju.
Ssemujju also weighed in on whether NUP should appoint another person to replace Zaake as commissioner. He said with his experience while they held the opposition, a clash with the speaker might bring zero returns if one side chooses not to stand down. He said, previously when they had disagreements with the then speaker Rebecca Kadaga, she declined to accept their parliamentary appointments and they had nothing to do about it.