Regional court allows Zziwa to give evidence

Saturday November 14 2015

By DICTA ASIIMWE, TEA Special Correspondent

The lawyers of the East African Community Secretary General have appealed a ruling in which five first instance division judges of the East African Court of Justice ruled that former East Africa Legislative Assembly Speaker Margaret Zziwa was eligible to give evidence in the case challenging her impeachment last year. 

The Secretary General’s lawyers filed the notice of appeal on November 10, meaning Ms Zziwa will have to wait longer before the court hears the main case in which she is contesting her removal from the highest office of the regional parliament.

Hearing of the main case should have started on September 8, but the SG’s lawyers insisted that it was against the law for EALA members and workers to present evidence without permission from the Speaker, an argument the judges of the East African Court of Justice described as trial by ambush and delay of court proceedings.

Citing section 32 of the EALA Rules and Privileges Act, the SG’s lawyer Stephen Agaba argued that Ms Zziwa, the EALA clerk and any other MPs of the regional parliament interested in presenting evidence, must first get permission from current Speaker Daniel Kidega.

Respect for EALA minutes

“Neither the Speaker, nor any officer of the assembly shall be subject to the jurisdiction of any court in respect of the exercise of any power conferred on or vested in the Speaker or such officer under this Act,” Mr Agaba submitted.

He further argued that section 20 of the same rules bar any member or worker of the Assembly from giving evidence elsewhere in respect to minutes and records taken on behalf of EALA. 

Although the court did not pronounce itself on the legality of this as it was not one of the questions under determination, the judges stated, in a November 6 ruling, that the clerk had been asked to personally appear before it with documentation related to the Zziwa case, and that failure to do so would be tantamount to contempt of court.

The EALA clerk is expected to be one of the star witnesses for Ms Zziwa, who contests the grounds of poor governance and leadership skills that led to her removal from office on December 2014.

Peter Muthuki, the mover of the impeachment motion, stated that the former speaker made unilateral decisions and abused the consensus requirement during commission meetings.