How Namuganza fell on her sword

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Thomas Tayebwa chairs the session that censured Ms Persis Namuganza, the State Minister for Lands, at Parliament on January 23, 2023. PHOTOS/DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Only five lawmakers voted against the motion, with three abstaining. Mr Thomas Tayebwa—the Deputy Speaker of Parliament who chaired yesterday’s sitting—emphasised that the censure motion could only succeed if at least 265 votes were cast in support of the motion out of the 527 current legislators.

When the roll call for yesterday’s censure vote ended up on Mr Moses Magogo’s name, the House burst into a collective chuckle before the Budiope East lawmaker revealed he favoured placing Ms Persis Namuganza’s head on the chopping block.
Ms Namuganza, the erstwhile junior Lands minister who doubles as Bukono County legislator, has in recent months been at loggerheads with her fellow members in the House. She was accused of, inter alia, being indisciplined and undermining the integrity of the House. 
Part of the evidence that a Select Committee headed by Mr Mwine Mpaka adduced was a television interview in which Ms Namuganza claimed that she had been sanctioned for personal reasons. Last August, Mr Geoffrey Rwakabale—in his capacity as Makindye Division Town Clerk at the time—receded registration of the marriage of House Speaker Anita Among and Mr Magogo. 

The chairperson of the select committee, Mr Mwine Mpaka, presents the report on Namuganza’s censure on the floor of Parliament. 

Mr Rwakabale is Ms Namuganza’s husband. Speaking last year, Mr Rwakabale said he “formally deleted the couple from the Division Customary Marriage Register” after “discover[ing] glaring omissions and errors.”  The couple had held a customary marriage at Mestil Hotel in the latter part of last July.
While presenting the Select Committee’s report, Mr Mpaka ruled that the matters Ms Namuganza raised in the television interview were “obnoxious, reckless, insufferable, beyond the pale and in per incuriam (lack of due regard to the law or the facts).”
“It was an attack on the person of the Speaker and the Parliament without due regard to the rules of procedure, the protected status, the procedures of redress, the applicability of privilege and decorum of Parliament,” Mr Mpaka, also the Mbarara City South lawmaker, added.

Ms Namuganza’s case was referred to the Select Committee late last year once the House adopted a Rules Committee report. The Bukono County lawmaker’s problems are said to have started last March when the House constituted an ad hoc committee to investigate Nakawa-Naguru land allocations. The junior Lands minister was later faulted for unlawfully manipulating the allocation of the land. 
Mr Mpaka pointed out yesterday this timeline predates the purported annulment of the Speaker and Mr Magogo’s marriage. The bone of contention—as per Mr Mpaka and more than 350 other members that greenlit yesterday’s censure motion—was that Ms Namuganza undermined the work of the ad hoc committee.

The junior Lands minister is alleged to have said in the the 11th WhatsApp group of Members of Parliament thus: “…and these so-called ad hoc committees all the time? We have substantive committees of Parliament. They should be the ones to handle matters that follow under their responsibilities, why Adhoc? As if they are hired to embarrass! Anyway the matter is [before the] court for judicial interpretation.”
The Select Committee also referenced Daily Monitor’s May 22, 2022, article. Mr Amos John Okot (Agago North County), the mover of the censure motion, adduced the article as evidence.
During the debate of the motion, lawmakers said the situation on Ms Namuganza would have been contained if she had accepted her faults and conveyed an apology to the House.

When the matter was put to a vote, 356 lawmakers voted in favour of the motion. Only five lawmakers voted against the motion, with three abstaining. Mr Thomas Tayebwa—the Deputy Speaker of Parliament who chaired yesterday’s sitting—emphasised that the censure motion could only succeed if at least 265 votes were cast in support of the motion out of the 527 current legislators.
Following the finale of the voting process, Mr Tayebwa then referred to Parliament’s Rules of Procedure 109 (13) which states thus: “After debate, the House shall vote on the motion and if carried by more than half of all the voting Members of Parliament, the Speaker shall inform the President of this fact within twenty four hours from the time the Motion was voted upon.”
The mood inside the House was vibrant with MPs showing a lot of excitement ahead of the voting process. Even those who often skip sittings showed face.

Namuganza a no-show
Mr Enos Asiimwe (Kabula County) had earlier, at the start of the sitting, asked for clarity on how the House can proceed when the Minister was unavailable to defend herself because of Cabinet meetings [that are held on Mondays].
Mr Asiimwe made the submission while referring to the Rule of Procedure 109 (12) which states: “On receipt of the Committee’s report, and notwithstanding the findings of the Committee, the Speaker shall call upon the chief petitioner to open debate on the Motion, followed by a defence by the concerned Minister and a debate by the House unless the Motion is withdrawn.”

Persis Namuganza 

In such a case, Mr Tayebwa responded, the senior [Lands] Minister should have instead attended the cabinet meeting while Ms Namuganza comes to Parliament. Besides, Mr Tayebwa added, Ms Namuganza had not made any communication to that effect that she would be able to show up at the House.
“Honourable Namuganza is not a full Minister. She is a Minister of State. So, any business to do with her Ministry can be done by the Full Minister in Cabinet,” he said.
“We released the Order Paper on [last] Friday [and] never received any information, notice from Honourable Namuganza to say she has special business in cabinet and therefore would not be here. So, I expect her to be here and when the time comes, I will call her to come and present her position,” Mr Tayebwa added.

Ms Namuganza was called upon to give her defence before debate ensued. After realising she was not physically present at the chambers, Mr Tayebwa then tasked the Clerk of Parliament to check whether she was on Zoom. She was not online.
“So, I have gotten information from the Clerk that she is not [also] online. So, she has jumped (today’s Parliament’s proceedings,” Mr Tayebwa said before opening the House up for debate.
Ms Namuganza has in the past mentioned that processes in Parliament amount to prejudice since the matter is before court.

Lawyer Dan Wandera Ogalo

WHAT IT MEANS
     A former legislator and now Senior Counsel, Mr Wandera Ogalo, said the aspect of censure was developed to deal with errant and untouchable Ministers.
    “When the debate in the Constituent assembly for the Constitution was taking place in 1994, there was a revisit on our past about ministers. There was a debate that in the 80s, especially in Obote’s [government], some Ministers had become too powerful that they were untouchable and that they would make the work and life of the President very difficult. So, the initial thinking about censure was for Parliament to assist the President in raining in Ministers who had become 

untouchable and were doing things that were impossible to understand, more over above the law. This provision was to come in and help the President when such things occur, for instance the Minister was corrupt and the President was not touching the. So, that was the background to it, censure. 
     People tend to think that a censure means that a Minister will be sacked. No. It’s upon the President to make a decision depending on the gravity of the matter. He can decide to caution or reprimand the Minister. But at least it is required he takes some kind of action. He cannot just keep quiet. Depending on what type of action he takes depends on him and really out of the hands of Parliament.”


What they said

On Speaker Among 
“I petitioned the Speaker of Parliament as the person who made the ruling in respect of the sub judice claim and I am still awaiting a response from her. You summoned me to appear here by your powers under Article 90 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda of 1995. The same Article [90] gives you powers to order the production of documents by any witness, which is a requirement of fair hearing. I cannot participate in an illegality. I cannot continue on with this.”
[Ms Namuganza was referred to the Committee on July 13, 2022 by Mr Tayebwa carry out a probe following remarks she made that undermined the integrity of Parliament],’’ Ms Namuganza [while appearing before the Committee of Rules, Discipline and Privileges on September 14, 2022]

Violation of rules. 
“The matter raised in the interviews was obnoxious, reckless, insufferable, beyond the pale and in per incuriam. It was an attack on the person of the Speaker and the Parliament without due regard to the rules of procedure, the protected status, the procedures of redress, the applicability of privilege and decorum of Parliament. The Committee having found prima facie evidence to prove the allegations contained in the Motion and supporting documents prays that this report be adopted by the House and leads the House under Rule 109 (9) (b) of the Rules of Procedure in the proceedings of censure against Hon Persis Namuganza Princess,” Mwine Mpaka, chairperson of the Select Committee

Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa

Breach of conduct. 
“The committee [found] that by making derogatory statements about Parliament, the conduct of Hon Namuganza amounted to gross misconduct and misbehaviour [and] was an affront to the dignity of Parliament, it denigrated public trust and confidence in the authority and integrity of the office of the Speaker, members, and the institution of Parliament. Her conduct was in breach of conduct for members of Parliament as enumerated in the Rules of Procedure and constituted contempt of Parliament,” Mr Charles Onen, vice chairperson of Rules, Privileges and Discipline

Repercussion. 
 “The decision to censure a minister is not a decision that should be taken lightly. It has far reaching consequences on the minister, his or her family, Cabinet, appointing authority and the country at large. This explains why the Constitution deemed it necessary that ministers should be censured on prescribed grounds,” Amos John Okot (Agago North County), the mover of the censure motion

 Theatre of politics. 
“The censure is the decision of the House. It will be communicated to the President who is the appointing authority. And censure is provided for in the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure and in this case, it is what has been used. The rest of the arguments is politics and Parliament is a theatre of politics,” Mr Chris Obore, Parliament’s Director of Communication and Public Affairs

Order Paper. 
“We released the Order Paper on [last] Friday [and] never received any information, notice from Honourable Namuganza to say she has special business in Cabinet [yesterday] and, therefore, would not be here. So, I expect her to be here and when the time comes, I will call her to come and present her position [Ms Namuganza was a no show at the sitting],’’ Deputy Speaker of Parliament Thomas Tayebwa


Wayforward. 
“After debate, the House shall vote on the Motion and if carried by more than half of all the voting Members of Parliament, the Speaker shall inform the President of this fact within twenty four hours from the time the Motion was voted upon,’’ Parliament’s Rules of Procedure 109 (13) in reference to vote of censure against Ministers

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