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Rules Committee Finds MP Zaake Guilty of Indiscipline

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In its report, the committee confirms that Zaake made statements on his social media accounts of Facebook and Twitter and that the statements brought parliament into disrepute. The committee also says that Zaake was in breach of the rule on public trust and confidence under the Code of Conduct of MPs.
Abdu Katuntu, the Chairperson of the Rules, Privileges and Discipline Committee of parliament.

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The Rules, Privileges and Discipline Committee of Parliament has recommended that the Mityana Municipality MP, Francis Zaake apologizes to the House for his actions that tantamount to indiscipline.

This is carried in the committee report tabled before Parliament on Thursday afternoon by Bugweri County MP, Abdu Katuntu.

In its report, the committee confirms that Zaake made statements on his social media accounts of Facebook and Twitter and that the statements brought Parliament into disrepute. The committee also says that Zaake was in breach of the rule on public trust and confidence under the Code of Conduct of MPs.

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The report emanates from a probe that followed a complaint raised by the Bardege-Layibi Division MP, Martin Ojara Mapenduzi on the floor of Parliament in which he proposed to move a motion for Zaake’s removal from the parliamentary commission, the top most organ of the House.  

He noted that Zaake's outburst on social media about the Deputy Speaker, Anita Among was in breach of the code of conduct for a Member of Parliament particularly a requirement to conduct themselves in a manner, which will maintain and strengthen the public trust and confidence in the integrity of Parliament.    

"...last week, the nation woke up to a rant by a Member of this House, a Commissioner of Parliament, the honourable Zaake Francis through his known social media handles where he insulted the integrity of this House and above all, the integrity of the Office of the Speaker,” Mapenduzi said in relation to a tweet on Zaake's social media handle.    

MP Mapenduzi further complained formally before the committee and tabled a printed picture of Zaake’s alleged post on Facebook. He later in his written statement submitted a print out of Zaake’s tweets.

Now, according to Katuntu, his committee inquiry was guided by three pertinent points. These included whether the impugned social media statements were made by Zaake, whether there is any breach of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament, including any breach of privilege or matter of discipline and what are the observations and recommendations on the issue.

Katuntu reported that the Twitter handle @ZaakeFrancis bearing particulars like Commissioner of 11th  @Parliament=UG, Director @zaakefoundation, Secretary for Youth @NUP_UG, MP Mityana Municipality and particulars of Zaake, as provided to the Parliament of Uganda and contained in his personal file are the uncontroverted evidence.

“The above particulars bear the details of Hon. Francis Zaake. Without unequivocal denial by Hon. Zaake, the Committee finds that the said Twitter handle belongs to Hon. Zaake,” said Katuntu.

Katuntu also said that the Facebook printout laid on Table before Parliament and provided to the Committee is from the Facebook account https://www.facebook.com/HonZaakeFrancisButebi and that the email address used to open up the account [email protected] is the same account found in  Zaake's personal file as held by the Parliamentary Commission.

“The Committee holds the view that the same Facebook account belongs to Hon. Francis Zaake. The impugned social media content must have been posted by Hon. Zaake and or somebody associated with him, managinq his said social media accounts,” Katuntu added.

He observes that the words as used in the tweet do bring the House and the Office of the Speaker into disrepute.

Katuntu further said that Zaake’s words denigrate public trust and confidence in the integrity of Honourable Members and of the House. He emphasized that the Iaw demands of Members of Parliament to, at all times, behave in an honourable manner and that Members of Parliament took oath to uphold all laws without fear or favour.

“By making the impugned statement, Hon. Zaake’s conduct did manifest one who was in breach of public trust. He did not protect the integrity of Parliament. lnstead, the conduct brought the entire Parliament and its leadership into disrepute. The statement, no doubt, undermined the dignity and integrity of the Office of the Speaker, the Presiding Officer of Parliament. It lowered the esteem of the institution of Parliament in the eyes of the citizens who ought to look up to their Ieaders,” further reads the committee report.

The committee said that Zaake could have raised a substantive motion to question the conduct or remarks made by the Deputy Speaker.

According to Katuntu, it is the committee’s view that the conduct of Zaake was not proper and amounted to misbehavior and misconduct of a Member of Parliament.

On the allegations of breach of privilege, Katuntu said that the committee finds no merit in the complaint.

“There is no privilege provided for under the law which Hon. Zaake breached. It is the Committee’s considered view that this House finds Hon. Zaake innocent of this complaint,” Katuntu recommended.

Also recommended is that the Parliamentary Commission should take steps to address MP Zaake's concern about his personal security.

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Meanwhile, a minority report tabled by Butambala Woman MP Aisha Kabanda said that the complaint against Zaake failed to prove that the social media posts were actually made by Zaake.

The minority report is also signed by Nansana Municipality MP Musoke Wakayima, Bukomansimbi South MP Geofrey Kayemba Ssolo, Industrial Division MP Karim Masaba and Kampala Woman MP Shamim Malende.

“The Uganda Communications Commission lacks capacity and competence to investigate social media complaints. Mapendunzi lodged the complaint in bad faith. Not enough effort was made to ensure impartiality of the Committee,” reads part of the minority report.

The minority MPs say that whereas Parliament is mandated to make laws that govern parliament, the Rules of procedure are specific to regulating proceedings before parliament and its committees.

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The MPs say that the quasi-judicial mandate of the committee does not extend to conduct and affairs of members outside Parliament and that assuming such mandate would be assuming the role of the Judiciary. 

The minority report recommended reconciliation between the parties involved in the matter for smooth running of Parliament and avoidance of unnecessary tension. They also recommended that parliament amends the law to provide for a panel of presiding officers in situations where both Speaker and Deputy Speaker could be either indisposed or conflicted.

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