KAMPALA – Legislators on Monday overwhelmingly voted to censure Persis Princes Namuganza, Uganda’s State Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development. Namuganza did not attend the session.
A total of 356 legislators out of 529 in Parliament voted with 348 supporting to throw her out of cabinet, meeting the threshold of 265 needed to carry on the censure motion as provided for under Rule 109 (13) of the Rule of Procedure and Article 118(1) of the Constitution.
Five MPs voted no as three abstained. Loy Katali (Jinja District), Alioni Yorke Odria (Aringa South), and Moses Walyomu Muwanika (Kagoma County), and Buyende woman MP Mary Nakato Annet voted ‘NO’ to the motion.
Those who abstained included, Florence Akiiki Asiimwe, the Masindi District Woman Representative, Busingye Peninah Kabingani (Elderly Representative), and Lee Denis Aguzu, the Maracha County MP.
All the Ministers, including Namuganza, were missing from the House. The Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa is expected to transmit the resolution of Parliament to President Yoweri Museveni within 24 hours as the law stipulates, for appropriate action.
Trouble for Namuganza started in May, 2022 after an ad-hoc Committee implicated her for unlawful involvement in the 142-acre Nakawa-Naguru Housing Estate land giveaway to some investors purportedly on the President’s directive for a satellite city.
The Minister walked out of the meeting convened by the ad-hoc Committee and later made public comments about Parliament that the House does not have the right to investigate her. She also questioned the integrity of the presiding officers.
But an investigation report of the seven-member Select Committee led by Mwine Mpaka Rwamirama, the Mbarara City South Member of Parliament which was appointed by the Deputy Speaker on January 6, 2022 found Namuganza culpable for transgressing against the House and its leadership.
The committee unanimously found her to be in violation of her oath, and that her conduct satisfied the grounds in Article 118 of the Constitution.
“…the matters raised in the interview [which Hon Namuganza gave to various media houses] was obnoxious, reckless, insufferable, beyond the pale and in per incuriam,” said Mwine Mpaka.
He added; “it was an attack on the person of the Speaker and the Parliament without due regard to the Rules of Procedure, the protected status, the procedure of redress, the applicability of privilege and decorum of the House,” read the committee’s findings in part.”
The minister declined to appear and defend herself in both the committee and in the House, choosing to instead say the matter is before court and therefore sub-judice, a view repeated by her lawyers who sought to halt the proceedings on the same ground.
In response to the report, Nathan Byanyima, the Bukanga County MP supported adoption of the report saying Namuganza has time and again nurtured the culture of undermining authorities and should be stripped of her Ministerial position.
Jesca Ababiku, the Adjumani District Woman Representative, faulted Minister Namuganza for abusing the cause of women emancipation and therefore being censured would restore sanity in leadership and trust of the public.
Equally, Rose Obigah, the Terego District Woman Representative said once defiance and disobedience to the rule of law and the Rule of Procedure of Parliament goes unpunished, the practice is considered an indictment to the integrity House.
To West Budama North East County, Fox Odoi Oywelowo, the conduct of the Minister showed gross lack of respect to the appointing authority, institutional processes and her voters which are symbols of civilization.
The Deputy Speaker Tayebwa reiterated that though Namuganza was informed and accorded opportunity to attend the plenary sitting and defend herself against the motion, she did not respond, which was an indictment on herself.
Laura Kanushu, PWDs rep who voted in favour of the motion, said the censure of the minister is because she violated the Rules.
“This is not just about Hon. Namuganza, it is about our Rules of Procedure; how can you be asked to appear before a Committee of Parliament and you say you cannot appear before the Committee?” she said.
John Okot Amos, Agago North MP said Namuganza’s actions lowered the estimation of Parliament in the eyes of right-thinking members of society.
It should be noted that censured ministers do not necessarily lose their seats, although the Constitution envisages that the person against whom such a motion is carried resigns.
“Upon a vote of censure being passed against a Minister, the President shall, unless a Minister resigns his or her office, take appropriate action in the matter,” reads Article 118(2) of the Constitution.
Minister Namuganza, also the Bukono County MP in Namisindwa District has since denied any wrongdoing and declined to apologize to the public insisting that she is innocent. Instead, she accused Speaker Anita Among of seeking to show her power by pursuing a personal vendetta.
However, the five-hour long plenary session that started at 10:00 am to 3:40 pm finally concluded after Barnabas Tinkasimire, the Buyaga County lawmaker moved a motion, seconded by Asuman Basalirwa of Bugiri Municipality for the House to adopt the Committee report and vote.
The absence of the minister and the entire Cabinet from today’s meeting was raised by Enos Asiimwe.
Deputy Speaker Tayebwa, however, guided that the Order Paper was released on Friday, 20 January 2023 and that there was no message from the Executive to communicate their absence.
The Speaker will, in 24 hours and pursuant to Rule 109 of the Rules of Procedure, relay to the President the decision of the House, who will ‘take appropriate action’ as required under Article 118 (2) of the Constitution.