Sunday, March 20, 2022

Last week Parliament overly dominated by the NRM took an unusual decision to impeach Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zzake and stripped him of membership on its top organ, the Parliamentary Commission over his vulgar spat against Deputy Speaker Anita Among, woman MP Bukedea district. After verbally insulting Among with sexually explicit words on the floor that cannot be repeated here, an aggressive and unapologetic Zzake went to his twitter page, deleted the comments, believing he had erased the trail. When summoned before the parliamentary rules committee, rather than concede, he instead doubled down, walked out, because after all, he had ‘only’ perhaps talked back a ‘silly’ woman.


Some analysts and critics of NRM may find this decision, now being challenged in Court of law unusual because public spat including mean insults at each other has for a while been considered an art and part of dark politics where people play high-stakes eyeball game. It’s important that perennial political nuisance behaviour doesn’t gain ground or get accepted as norm, and its peddlers shouldn’t get public sympathy. The rogue street behaviour some NUP leaders exhibit and encourage among their followers on account of their background must be tamed when they come to the table of political adult players. NUP as an enclave tribal political outfit ought to know that it needs to cultivate support or at least goodwill outside Buganda to survive beyond one single election wave driven by social discontent.  


Some of this rogue behaviour is slowing finding its way into the judicial system where lawyers find it acceptable to disregard established procedures for challenging a judge when one disagree but instead take to disparaging them. The case where High Court Judge Musa Sekaana found lawyer Male Mabirizi’s conduct unprofessional, insulting and in contempt of both court and his person, and sent him to serve jail term in Kitalya, ought to be a good lesson, although many think that Mabirizi is more of a legal irritant doing publicity stunts who should have been treated leniently.


There’s need for people like Zzake and Mabiririzi to distinguish legitimate criticism of leaders from insults. While the former is acceptable as part of a democratic process, the later is could be considered libelous. It’s imperative that those in political leadership especially cabinet and parliament step back for introspection about their conduct against perceived adversaries, and one hopes that a parliament speaker or judges won’t take to gagging criticisms of their conduct simply because their institutions enjoy immunity.


The bragging ‘youthful’ National Unity Platform (NUP) members including their MPs have adopted howling insults as their trademark. Their fighters on traditional and social media platforms are so venomous that few, except perhaps, DP President, Norbert Mao, and his ‘one-man army’ can still dare confront them on a defined battle line, otherwise, most victims of their character assassination have chosen to suffer silently.


Therefore, the fate visited upon Zzake should serve many useful lessons, among them is that majority MPs are seeking to rebuild personal and collective discipline, respect, integrity, trust and dignity in parliamentary discourse. While it’s still early to judge how this unfolds, it sends strong signal that gone may be the days when an MP easily gets away deliberate falsehoods or character assassination.


The second lesson to the opposition and NUP LOP Mathias Mpuuga in particular, is that they better take NRM very seriously when it comes to political brinkmanship. NRM’s magnanimity shouldn’t be taken as weakness, or abused because it has the capacity to strike back really hard. Many will recall that it was Mpuuga who conjured up false accusations and mounted the aborted censure of Security Minister Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Jim Katugugu Muhwezi. Mpuuga didn’t have and miserably failed to present any instances where Muhwezi was involved or linked to the alleged recent human abuses by security forces. 


Mpuuga also couldn’t present any case where Muhwezi was required but failed, ignored or refused to appear before parliament to explain alleged cases of human violations. It appears that Mpuuga’s gamble was that Muhwezi could be a soft target in his censure drama to blackmail, insult and embarrass government. Mpuuga and NUP falsely believed that due to the abrasive speakership race, NRM MPs were still divided. Now, many think that should NUP leaders continue with their misguided insolence, NRM could withholding unconditional support, and start to filibuster NUP-led committee attendance, work and reports so that NUP can appreciate the value of humility in politics.


Zzake’s impeachment and removal showed the unity among NRM MPs and its capacity to penetrate, mobilize and deploy even those in the opposition to serve NUP its own dinner of mischief. The futile attempt to censure Muhwezi where NUP failed to gather the required signatures even to cause debate on the floor of parliament is another evidence of NRM’s unity of purpose. This time NUP couldn’t even get the usual NRM ‘rebel’ MPs to support them. It’s also evident that NUP failed to harness opposition parties in parliament, and hence its subterfuge suffering humiliating defeats.