TSHOLOTSHO North MP Jonathan Moyo was conspicuous by his absence in Parliament yesterday as he remained mum about his alleged temporary removal from government by President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday.
by XOLISANI NCUBE/EVERSON MUSHAVA on Newsday
Moyo was reportedly asked to withdraw from Cabinet so that he could retake the ministerial oath following his June 10 election as an MP.
The Zanu PF election strategist was one of the beneficiaries of Mugabe’s allocation of five ministers from outside Parliament.
The others were Agriculture minister Joseph Made, Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs minister Faber Chidarikire, Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs minister Martin Dinha and Primary and Secondary Education minister Lazarus Dokora.
Government sources on Tuesday said the 91-year-old leader had asked Moyo to bow out so that proper procedures could be followed in swearing him in as a minister after becoming an elected MP.
However, the unusual step has raised speculation after government refused to disclose information on Moyo’s fate.
The minister himself, who of late has been vocal on social media, has avoided the issue since the story broke on Tuesday.
Yesterday, one of Moyo’s Twitter followers wrote: “@nombonisogasa it’s being said that @ProfJNMoyo was unceremoniously FIRED by #Mugabe. unsurprisingly — he’s an idiot! @Follow_SALC”.
Moyo curtly responded: “The real idiots are your ancestors who colonised Africa!”
Former Information Communication Technology minister Nelson Chamisa tried to ask Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa about Moyo during a meleé in the National Assembly over the absence of national broadcaster ZBC coverage, but he was ignored.
Moyo was reportedly not at his Harare offices yesterday and he told one of his inquisitive followers on microblogging site Twitter that he was tweeting from cyberspace.
Sources close to Mugabe’s advisers said the veteran ruler used Section 104 (3) of the Constitution, which limits voting rights in Parliament and Section 104 (5) to remove him from the post, but had not gone as far as stripping him of his perks.
“A person who is appointed from outside Parliament is only entitled to sit and speak in Parliament, but without a vote and now since he (Moyo) had been elected, his rights have changed to include that of voting,” the source said speaking on strict condition of anonymity.
“Further to that, politically, which is the key driver in this issue, Moyo was an appointed minister because of his special skills and the President, because he is now eligible to be appointed on the basis of the skills, had to remove him from that group and create space to appoint someone with such skills outside Parliament as provided for in Section 104 (3, 4 and 5).”
The source said besides Section 104 of the Constitution, Section 108 (3) also worked against Moyo’s continued stay unless he was re-appointed.
Moyo was appointed as Information minister after the 2013 general elections although he had lost in the Tsholotsho North election to MDC-T’s Roseline Nkomo.
The source said Mugabe could be trying to create room to appoint a minister from outside Parliament, with rumours swirling that it could be his wife Grace who was reportedly earmarked for the vacant Women’s Affairs portfolio.
The First Lady is now secretary for the Zanu PF Women’s League in the politburo.
“The President could only afford to create a vacancy list of those appointed by reappointing Prof Moyo as inside Parliament,” the source said.
Former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s one-time advisrr and United Kingdom-based law lecturer Alex Magaisa said the sidelining of Moyo could be explained in legal terms.
“Another defence available to any legal challenge would be Section 108 (3) which states that, as read with Section 129 (1) which deals with grounds under which an MP can lose his/her seat,” Magaisa said.
He said Section 129 (1) (g) stated that an MP vacates his seat if he “accepts public office”, which office, according to Section 332, is “a paid office in the service of the State”.
An MP, Magaisa said, would qualify to be a “public officer”.
“In this regard, when Moyo was sworn in as an MP, he became a ‘public officer’ and as such technically, the circumstance triggered the operation of Section 129(1)(g), as read with Section 108(3), meaning that he vacated his ministerial office when he accepted that ‘public office’,” Magaisa argued.
Magaisa said Moyo would now have to wait for Mugabe’s re-appointment.
The outspoken former Mugabe critic has reportedly not been served with a dismissal letter by the President, NewsDay established yesterday.
He still enjoys all the benefits accorded to government ministers, the sources added. He had not been picking calls nor responding to text messages.
Some legal experts said Mugabe’s move to freeze Moyo from his government duties was not warranted unless he wanted to dispense with him.
Magaisa questioned whether Mugabe still wanted Moyo in his Cabinet, suggesting that the strongman could have simply re-appointed him and avoid the drama of chucking him out of a Cabinet meeting.
Constitutional law expert Greg Linnington said he suspected Mugabe used Section 108 (3) to relieve Moyo of his ministerial duties.
“In my opinion, a minister who is not an MP and was appointed by the President, if he becomes an MP, he vacates his seat in Cabinet,” he said.
“But if the President wants him to stay, he can do so, nothing can stop him. It is his discretion. The minister can resign and get sworn in a minute later.”
University of Zimbabwe law professor Lovemore Madhuku said Moyo could only lose his Cabinet post by resigning or being fired by Mugabe.
He said there was no provision at law which allowed Mugabe to remove Moyo on the basis that he had now been elected as an MP.