Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma on Wednesday wrote to Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa questioning his motive in throwing his weight around in the SMM Holdings saga and suggested the former Attorney-General could be harbouring other interests in the company’s ownership dispute, triggered by its controversial annexation by government in 2004.
Before dispatching the letter, the Parliament administrative boss addressed a press conference where he advised Chanamasa to stop bossing everyone around as he had no power to do so.
A few hours later, Chinamasa found himself being called to order by the deputy speaker when he tried to fight back during a senate session, on grounds the case is still pending.
Chinamasa, who muscled the takeover of SMM Holdings, on Monday unsuccessfully ordered Zvoma to stop dispossessed business magnate Mutumwa Mawere from giving oral evidence to a parliamentary portfolio committee on mines and minerals, saying doing so would amount to sub judice as the matter was before the High and Supreme Courts.
The committee has already said it intended to haul Chinamasa before it to explain his conduct.
Zvoma said Chinamasa on Monday telephoned him requesting him to block the scheduled hearing and immediately followed through with a letter imploring him to “take the necessary steps to ensure that the scheduled hearing does not take place as this would be contemptuous of the pending proceedings”.
The letter, which was addressed to Zvoma and Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo, was published in The Herald the next day.
It has since emerged that the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs did not fund the advert and others prior to it, amid speculation that the bill may have been offloaded on SMM Holdings, the company at the centre of the controversy.
In his reply yesterday, Zvoma said he “respectfully disagree(d)” with Chinamasa on his interpretation of the concept of sub judice, asserting that the rule was limited to House sessions only and had no extra-plenary application.
He sternly cautioned the minister that his actions – engendered under the pretext of the sub judice rule – constituted an untoward interference with august House’s business, and by implication, infringed on the doctrine of separation of powers between the Executive, Parliament and the Judiciary.
“As you told me, by then your letter was already on its way to Parliament and incidentally on its way to Zimpapers for advertisement in The Herald edition of Tuesday 16 November 2010,” Zvoma said.
“One fails to understand your motive for communicating through the press and even before the addressees have responded.
“In that letter you provide a list of three sub judice matters pending before the courts. You, therefore, requested that necessary steps be taken for the scheduled hearing not to take place as this would be contemptuous of the pending proceedings.”
During the press conference, Zvoma said, based on his interpretation of the sub judice concept, Chanamasa was also guilty of infringing the same rule with his media adverts on the same matter.
“I can’t use placards to Mutorashanga, Uzumba and Shamva to show that this is my response. I have to use the same media that he used. Why should I reinvent the wheel?”
During a Senate sitting the same day, Chinamasa tried to respond to Zvoma but was called to order by the deputy speaker on grounds of sub judice.
“Madam Speaker, let me from the outset, say that the ShabaniMashava Mines and its affairs as well as Mawere’s affairs have been the subject matter of mitigation, not only in Zimbabwe but in South Africa, Zambia and the United Kingdom. It is important that I put this clear that these matters are sub judice.
“Not long ago, the Supreme Court heard a matter in which judgment is pending, there is also a matter that has been set down before the High Court tomorrow, all to do with Mawere and Shabani Mine matters, but I do not want to hide this to avoid or duck the question.”