People & Power

Umeme scam rocks House as Madiba is remembered

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Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi presents the government statement

Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi presents the government statement to eulogise Nelson Mandela on Thursday. Photo by Geoffrey Sseruyange 

By Yasiin Mugrewa

Posted  Sunday, December 15  2013 at  02:00

In Summary

The embarrassment of empty seats on account of the absence of Cabinet ministers didn’t stop the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Mr Nandala Mafabi, from moving a ‘Government Motion’.


Mandela tribute: Mandela taught us the power of action, but also ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those you agree with, but those who you don’t. He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper’s bullet-- Barack Obama.

Parliament on Tuesday paid homage to South African liberation leader Nelson Mandela who passed on last week, and continues to live through his legacy of courage, integrity and compassion.

The embarrassment of empty seats on account of the absence of Cabinet ministers didn’t stop the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Mr Nandala Mafabi, from moving a ‘Government Motion’.

The lawmakers joined the rest of the world in honouring the father of the “Rainbow Nation” and pledged to fight injustice, intolerance, arrogance, nepotism and foster the rule of law in imitation of the anti-apartheid hero.
The ministers missed Mandela’s tribute and Cabinet attempts to force through a second motion was rejected by Speaker Kadaga. However, on Thursday, Ms Kadaga allowed Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi to present a government statement. She also allowed some ministers to debate the statement.

In his motion, Mafabi kept admonishing leaders who promise democracy only to unleash terror, corruption and brutality on their people. In his usual taunting style —beset with political pomposity and flamboyance, the Opposition leader kept using innuendos, taunting the breed of African leaders he accused of oppressing opposition leaders and called for tolerance.

In making his case for dialogue; Mr Mafabi quoted Obama, saying: “There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.” Mr Mafabi wondered whether in the shadows of an amorphous war against dissonance, will there ever be a time for opposition leaders and their wives to travel with President Museveni on the same plane, the way Obama did with former American leaders.
The lawmakers obscured political difference and recognised Mandela’s quality of forgiveness, grace, humility and ability to acknowledge his mistakes. They quoted Mandela’s inspirational words, the same words US President Obama alluded to in his grand address to the mourners: “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

As President Obama put it, Mandela demonstrated that action and ideas are not enough; no matter how right, they must be chiselled into laws and institutions. He was practical, testing his beliefs against difficult circumstances and history.
The mendacity of the MPs who extolled Mandela notwithstanding the euphoria, we learnt that if our leaders are to learn something from Mandela’s politics, it has to be his unshakeable conviction that peace and reconciliation must be at the heart of the new order. Goodbye Madiba.

Umeme/GMO bribes
On a sad note, Speaker Kadaga ordered for parallel investigations into allegations that some MPs pocketed Shs5 million each from Umeme to block the termination of the power distributor’s contract.

Ms Kadaga on Wednesday also ordered for another investigation into accusations that MPs were bribed to pass the controversial Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2012.

The Speaker expressed serious concerns that some MPs were increasingly making unsubstantiated accusations against their colleagues in the House.

Ms Kadaga told the House on Tuesday that such allegations discredit the institution and demanded that those making the allegations should substantiate with evidence.

While Ms Kadaga wanted to let bygone-be- bygones, Mr Mafabi demanded that the accusations be investigated by the Rules, Discipline and Privileges Committee. Other legislators backed Mr Mafabi.
The lawmakers also complained that because of the allegations, they were being viewed as greedy and corrupt by the members of the public - the voters.

The West Budama South MP Jacob Oboth Oboth Committee on the corruption in the energy sector, did investigations and recommended in its report before Parliament that Umeme’s contract with the government be cancelled in public interest because it is unfair to the taxpayer and end users.

The recommendation that Umeme deal be terminated appears to have inflamed the accusations of bribery in the House. There are allegations that up to 33 members were bribed to block the Ad hoc committee report.
The accusations are yet to be substantiated.