Zimbabwe’s parliament says it has given former president Robert Mugabe a third chance to appear before the mines committee to face questions on the alleged disappearance of $15 billion in diamond revenues while he was in office.
Committee chairperson Temba Mliswa told journalists in Harare that Mugabe will be summoned if he does not appear for a hearing on the diamond saga on June 11th.
Mugabe, who was forced to resign last year when parliament was in the process of impeaching him after the Zimbabwe Defence Forces seized key state institutions in a defacto military coup and thousands of people staged peaceful street protests demanding his ouster, was initially expected to appear before the committee last Wednesday and today but failed to turn up for no unclear reasons.
Mliswa said, “We are going to write to him for the last time because if parliament writes to you twice and then they will summon you. It was unanimously agreed that he should appear before the committee on the 11th of June … In that letter of invitation we will also state certain provisions of the Standing Order Rules ... Failure to attend we have no choice but to summon him. It’s something that we regret to do and we hope we will not do it as the former president of the Republic of Zimbabwe his legacy needs to be protected and as a result it can only be done if he follows the laws of the country.”
In 2016, Mugabe claimed, without elaboration, that the country lost $15 billion through diamond leakages.
Human rights lawyer, Matshobana Ncube, says parliament does no longer have the power to jail Mugabe like what it did to the late Roy Bennet of the MDC-T, who was involved in a scuffle in the House of Assembly with Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa.
The ruling Zanu PF-dominated parliamentary privileges committee recommended that Bennet be sentenced to 15 months imprisonment. He served eight months of the sentence.
Ncube says the jailing of MPs and anyone deemed to be in contempt of parliament was scrapped following the adoption of a new constitution in 2013.
“I think the best they can do is to make a reprimand … It as felt during the constitution-making process that parliament should not have such powers because they are likely to be abused where one of the parties enjoys a majority and then it seeks to use it to harass it’s opponents by sentencing them to custodial terms. Right now parliament is a toothless bulldog.”
Zanu PF still enjoys a parliamentary majority in the House of Assembly and Senate.