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Court rejects Zitto  petition against  Parliamentary powers

Court rejects Zitto petition against Parliamentary powers

THE High Court has dismissed petition lodged by ACT-Wazalendo Leader Zitto Kabwe, challenging the constitutionality of the Parliamentary powers of interrogating the former Controller and Auditor General (CAG) Prof Mussa Assad, over his remarks that Tanzanian Parliament is weak.

A panel composed of Judges, Dr Benhajj Masoud, Elinaza Luvanda and Yose Mlyambina ruled against the opposition leader, the petitioner, after finding that his petition was devoid of merit.

Prof Assad made such remark when interviewed by the United Nations Radio in the United States of America, terming the Parliament as weak, a move that forced the Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Job Ndugai, to summon him to appear before the Parliamentary committee for interrogation to justify his assertion. Following such a move, the petitioner approached the court to bar the process.

During hearing of the petition, the Counsel for the petitioner had argued that the power of the Parliament to call any person under section 13 of the Parliamentary Immunities, Powers and Privilege Act has some limits.

This is because, he submitted, the CAG has the immunity and is protected by Article 143(6) of the Constitution and is not obliged to comply with the order or direction of any other person or government department.

In their decision, the judges said that it was true that the CAG is protected under the provision of Article 143 (6) of the Constitution. However, they said, the privilege therein is limited to protecting the CAG when performing or discharging his duty.

They rejected the approach by the petitioner’s counsel that the statement made by the CAG was made under his official capacity while discharging his duty.

“We cannot ascribe to this assertion, as correctly submitted by the Solicitor General, that the CAG is only under immunity while carrying his function under Article 143(2) (3) and (4),” the judges said. It can be said that the CAG was just making his opinion as a matter of expression of his freedom.

However, they said, the test is whether the statement made during the interview with the United Nations Radio in the United States of America concerned his function as CAG in Tanzania.

The Solicitor General had submitted that there was no report submitted to the President with such opinion and it was, indeed, not stated anywhere if at all the statement made was among the concerns or recommendations made in his report.

“We understand that the interview was in connection with the CAG report and recommendations made therein. But nowhere it was said that an allegation of weak parliament was among his recommendations, for it to be said was privileged,” they said.

According to the judges, had that report of CAG subject for interview embedded that opinion among others that the Parliament is weak, then the statement by the CAG could be said to be protected under Article 143(6) of the Constitution

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