Minister of Home Affairs and former Minister of Mines and Mining Development, Obert Mpofu caused commotion in Parliament today when he refused to answer questions about the alleged missing $15 billion diamond revenue. Mpofu who was appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy refused to answer any questions on the matter as long as committee chairperson Temba Mliswa was presiding.
The Home Affairs Minister alleged that Temba Mliswa had a conflict of interest in the matter as he had visited his home and previously attacked him in public. Said Mpofu:
I’ve been attacked by this chairman in the press.
I have never seen such level of unprofessionalism, Hon Shumba was professional, Hon Chindori-Chininga was professional, I have never seen this before. I will not cooperate as long as Mliswa is chair
Mpofu also claimed that he could not talk about his tenure as the Minister of Mines, saying that he had taken oaths of secrecy as a cabinet minister, implying that if he talked he would be violating the Official Secrets Act.
He remained adamant that he was not going to say anything despite numerous attempts by other members of the committee to convince him to speak. When told that he could be charged with contempt of parliament, Mpofu retorted.
You have not said anything besides intimidating me only but you will not convince me to talk, you are just wasting time …You can never intimidate me on issues of principle.
There was a period of commotion when members of the portfolio committee exchanged words among themselves after Kwekwe Central MP Masango Matambanadzo made a spirited defence of Mpofu and attacked his chairperson, Temba Mliswa. Said Matambanadzo
Why are you undressing our Minister? He is our Minister in Zanu PF we will not allow you to intimidate him, he has said he will not speak as long as you are the chair, why are you forcing him?
Mpofu later claimed that he had not been formally invited to appear before the portfolio committee and said that he only found out about it after reading the newspapers. He declared that he would not return as long as Temba Mliswa was there.
Mliswa and Mpofu had an exchange of words when Mliswa tried to explain how the committee was going to deal with Mpofu’s intransigence. However, Mpofu was unmoved and told Mliswa:
I respect Parliament but l don’t respect you . I will come back when l have been invited formally. You are trying to abuse me.
I am not coming after 2 pm
However, according to the Committee Operations Manual, the hearing should have been suspended immediately after Mpofu implicated Mliswa. Part of the Manual reads:
Under the Privileges Immunities and Powers of Parliament Act if any witness refuses to answer any lawful question during his or her examination, he/she shall be deemed guilty of contempt of Parliament. A committee can compel a witness to appear and answer questions on public matters (matters funded by public money) by way of summons.
…The witness should be given access to the evidence he/she gave to the committee. Certain ground rules need to be observed during oral evidence and these are as follows:
…If the witness, in his/her oral evidence submits information that implicates a member of the committee, the Committee should suspend its inquiry forthwith and report to the House accordingly.