Berated by some MPs in the media and assailed on the floor of parliament by others, the under-fire Minister of State for Housing, PERSIS NAMUGANZA looked like the loneliest politician for the best part of last week, but she’s fighting back.
Her pushback continues to spill secrets about the ironclad administration of parliament, the intimidation of MPs, and how many lawmakers are cowering in the face of the speakers of parliament.
Interviewed at the weekend, Namuganza said many MPs have called her to thank her for standing up against the bullies. She said MPs are threatened.
“What the speakers want is what goes through. When an MP stands to say something, they order him or her to get off ‘my microphone’,” she said.
Cabinet last week chose dialogue to resolve the impasse between Speaker of Parliament Annet Anita Among and Namuganza. But Namuganza disagrees. She insists she cannot dialogue with Among.
Speaking at the Uganda Media Centre last week, the minister for Information and National Guidance, Chris Baryomunsi, said the ruling NRM would want Among and Namuganza to resolve their issues amicably without involving parliament. Baryomunsi said the real reason Namuganza is facing censure is because she has rubbed Among the wrong way.
Interviewed at the weekend, Namuganza told The Observer’s Muhammad Kakembo that her disagreement with the speaker is based on criminal allegations which must be moved first before any ceasefire can happen. Below are the excerpts.
What do you say about the move to censure you?
Censuring me wouldn't be a big issue if it was based on serious issues. They say I undermined parliament, but they have failed to prove their claims. They have never brought any evidence to prove their claims.
In their report, they say my gestures in the corridors of parliament clearly showed that I undermined parliament and the speaker. I’m not sure which gestures were intended to undermine the speaker because they didn’t say. All these issues arose out of the ad hoc committee report on Naguru land, in which they alleged that I stole the land.
There is a coloration of those issues with the so-called indiscipline now. You cannot separate the two; they are faulting me for saying that the ad hoc committee did inaccurate work and did not act in good faith. They say I abused parliament, but they have refused, or rather failed, to produce evidence. I was in the committee myself and I asked them to give me evidence. The law of evidence demands that he who alleges must prove.
They have presented a report without any evidence attached, and they are moving to censure me. They are leaning on hearsay. They called me all sorts of names on the floor of parliament. They turned into a lynch mob. I don’t want our parliament to turn into a torture chamber by alleging things that can’t be proven.
I’m sure if we move like that, everyone would be a victim. I think they should stop. If they continue, we shall handle them according to the law.
The executive will also have a say in this matter because if they say I forged a presidential directive, that’s the work of the executive.
They are jumping on the issue of discipline, which they are not proving. I want them to tell me how I insulted the legislature. They should make those insults public because a minister’s censure must be of public interest. It’s not what you say on Twitter or WhatsApp.
The minister of Information and National Guidance, Chris Baryomunsi, said you need to dialogue with Speaker Anita Among; do you believe in dialogue to mend this relationship?
I believe in dialogue where the issues at hand are not criminal in nature. If you say I forged a presidential directive; that is a criminal act, and I should be taken to task on that. If you forged your marriage with your so-called husband, Moses Magogo, and there are penalties for someone who does that, she should cease to be in a public office.
That’s a serious matter. The mediation can come in, but where do you put these criminal accusations because they are serious; you can’t just walk over them, and that’s my concern. When you tarnish my name to that level and then you tell me to go for dialogue to bury that.
You use my family to participate in serious fraud; how do you expect me to bury that? I think the party will come in, but my areas of focus will be on those criminal allegations; are they true or not?
Are you challenging the speaker’s marriage in court?
I’m in touch with several marriage lawyers; there are 17 of them right now who want to take up this matter seriously because marriage is sacred. People are cohabiting and having children. There is no problem with that. But the moment you want to go official, you follow the procedures.
I have informed the public that this matter is before the police CID. When the matter is being investigated, we cannot talk about it. If this can happen to me as a minister with my husband, whom I married, what about other people? I think she should not use her position to cover up her fraudulent actions and use MPs to use Naguru or indiscipline, which they cannot even prove.
That’s why I came out publicly and, on the floor, to raise the issue that concerns me as a member of parliament. There is nothing bad I have done, and that’s the truth.
The MPs want to censure you because of your reaction to the Naguru report. Can’t you dialogue with them, so that they can forgive you?
How can you separate the Naguru report from the censure? That’s where they are wrong. They blame me for saying the report was inaccurate and not written in good faith. They claim that was an insult to the institution of parliament. How do you separate the two?
This is common sense. They wanted me to tell the press that the report was thorough, that it had pinned me, and that whatever it said was true. It disturbs my understanding. That’s why I told them in the committee that they were proceeding with a matter that was sub judice because all their questions were rotating around the ad hoc committee whose report I’m challenging in court.
This week, all the required signatures to move the censure motion to the next level were collected; does that worry you?
It doesn’t worry me because there is no proof for their claims. Censuring a minister must be a matter of public interest. If you say I insulted the legislature, produce evidence. That’s what I told the chief of rules, Hon Abdu Katuntu that their report lacked evidence.
Print out the insults and put them in the newspapers so that the public sees them. You saw them debating the report. They insulted me, they abused me. They uttered all they wanted to utter. I’m a mother, a wife, and a leader, but the whole world watched them use unparliamentary language.
The issue is not about how many they are, but do they have proof to pin me? I think they haven’t scrutinized the case against me properly.
People ask, “Why is it that it’s always Namuganza fighting?”
I have never started a fight with anybody; it’s always been me who has been attacked. I’m a quiet person, and I always mind my own business. I hear them complain that I don’t hang out with them. Even when they tell me to go and drink with them, I don’t. We are in court, and I’m waiting to see MPs of the 11th parliament break the Constitution, which we swore to protect, with the speaker cheering them on.
Once I notify you that I have a case against you in court and the summons have been served, you, as a law-abiding citizen, must desist from the action you are taking. But I’d like to thank the majority of MPs who support me.
They have called me, they have sent me messages, others have asked to meet me, and others are thanking me for coming out to rescue this parliament from the leadership that has become a problem. Which threatens MPs all the time. What the speakers want is what goes through.
When an MP stands up to say something, they order him or her to get off ‘my microphone.’ MPs represent people; there must be a calm way of telling them to wait until a certain item has been handled. When you say anything, they refer you to the rules committee, where you find Hon. Abdu Katuntu, who tortures you as if you committed the gravest crime.
The rules committee is the source of indiscipline. I think that’s where they should have started from. You hear the questions they ask, and they don’t want you to say anything. This kind of behaviour has been seen in other committees of parliament, where when civil servants go there, they are abused.
When they are asked and they take too long to answer, they call the police to humiliate them. No, we can’t continue like that.
You said there are MPs who are calling to cheer you up, but we have not seen many who have come out publicly to offer you support.
That’s not an issue; keeping quiet doesn’t mean you can’t win a case. There are MPs who have principles. By the way, those who talked in parliament were not even 20. We have over 500 MPs; the biggest numbers were not in parliament.
To take you a little bit back, you said the source of your problems with the speaker was her ordering your husband to register what you called a fraudulent marriage. But the Naguru report was way before the marriage issues came up in September...
I told you I’m in court; I don’t want to go deep into those issues.