Constitutional Court Hears Zaake’s Impeachment Case Afresh

The Constitutional Court has heard afresh an application, in which the Mityana Municipality Member of Parliament Francis Zaake is seeking to reverse his impeachment as a Parliamentary Commissioner. 

A five-member panel comprising Justices Catherine Bamugemereire, Muzamiru Mutangula Kibeedi, Christopher Izama Madrama, Stephen Musota, and Irene Mulyagonja previously heard the application.

But Justices Madrama and Musota were elevated to the Supreme Court when the application was pending judgment. Hearing of the case was closed in June 2022 but to date, no judgment has been delivered because along the way the Court lost quorum.

As a result, Constitutional Court fixed the application for a fresh heading before another panel following numerous protests from Zaake about the delayed judgment.

The petition stems from the March 10th, 2020 Parliamentary resolution to remove him from the parliamentary commission for alleged indiscipline following a report by the Rules, Discipline and Privileges Committee chaired by Abdu Katuntu, which found Zaake in breach of public trust and Parliament decorum. 

The then Deputy Speaker, Anita Among directed the Committee to investigate Zaake following a motion by the Gulu City Barledge Division Member of parliament, Ojara Mapenduzi for his removal on allegations of abusing the Speaker using his social media handle.

Trouble for Zaake started when he allegedly blasted the speaker on his social media handle for her comments during plenary to honor legislators and staff who had participated in the East African Legislative Assembly Games in Tanzania.

During the plenary, Anita joked that despite allegedly sustaining a broken leg following torture by security, Zaake had won a gold medal for Parliament in the 100-meter race. Anita’s comments came at a time legislators were complaining about the increasing cases of torture in the country perpetrated by security agencies.

Dissatisfied with the impeachment resolution, Zaake petitioned the Constitutional Court citing procedural impropriety. He explained that Parliament passed the resolution without at least half of all voting members in the House as required by the law. There are more than  500 legislators and ex-officials in the current parliament but only 161 MPs voted on the matter.

Zaake also accused members of the Rules Committee of having received Shillings 6 million each from public coffers for participating in the Committee proceedings that resulted in his removal from office, which was tantamount to bribery. He wants the court to compel each beneficiary to refund the money to the consolidated fund. Zaake also asked the court to halt the implementation of the resolution to impeach him until his case is determined or else he will suffer irreparable damages.

Zaake’s case was quickly heard and concluded in June 2022 by a panel of five Constitutional Court Justices following his meeting with Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera demanding an expeditious hearing. He has, however, waited for more than a year for the Judgement in vain. This morning, 

Zaake through his lawyers Erias Lukwago and Eron Kiiza appeared before a new panel for a fresh hearing of the matter. Lady Justice Eva Luswata and Oscar Kihiika have since replaced Justices Musota and Madrama on the panel. Justice Bamugemereire, the head of the panel apologized to the parties for the delay, saying that it was beyond their control.

They later asked the parties a few questions regarding the gist of the case to enable them to write a decision based on the submissions that are on the court record. Justice Kihiika asked Solomon Kirunda, the Director for Compliance at Parliament who represented the Parliamentary Commission, which was sued alongside the Attorney General, the documentary evidence that shows that Zaake was invited to defend himself but he refused to attend.

In response, Kirunda turned to voluminous papers that he had on his desk for about ten minutes looking for the alleged evidence in vain. He later openly told Court that there was no summons sent out to Zaake as required by law but he believes that it was on the Hansard. Here, Lukwago in agreement informed the Court that there is no evidence to show that Zaake was served or called, no communication was filed or in any way alluded to by the Clerk of Parliament Adolf Mwesigye, yet the rules require that the formal notice should be made and within 14 days the motion is moved.

He has gone ahead and asked the court to enter judgment in favor of Zaake who was not in Court.

Aam Tusubira, a State Attorney from the Attorney General’s Chambers asked Court to adopt their earlier submissions, which are on the file. The Justices have now gone to write their judgments and informed parties that they will notify them when it is ready.

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