Members of parliament divided over Kitwanga alcohol scandal

Members of parliament have voiced some rather mixed feelings over a plan announced by Speaker Job Ndugai to subject them to alcohol and drugs testing, with some suggesting the measure should apply not only to the august House but other public offices as well.

A section of legislators interviewed by The Guardian here asserted that as public servants, MPs have a duty to learn or be forced to drink responsibly.

They acknowledged that some honorable legislators tend to indulge beyond limits and step into the debating chambers while in a state of intoxication, and dismissed possible public perceptions that MPs as a group might object to any official moves to control how they choose to entertain themselves.

Speaker Ndugai mooted the plan to introduce compulsory alcohol and drugs testing for MPs on Sunday in the wake of President John Magufuli sacking of home affairs minister Charles Kitwanga for allegedly turning up in parliament and answering MPs questions related to his ministry while drunk.

Asked by The Guardian how he felt about the plan, Peter Lijuakali (Kilombero - CHADEMA) said it would help instill discipline among legislators who are representing a key organ of the state and involved in making important decisions on behalf of the people.

Basing on the core functions of parliament, legislators as decision-makers are suppose to attend House sessions with fresh minds so that they can make correct decisions on behalf of their electorate,” Lijuakali said. He suggested that some existing laws which have been highly criticized by the public may have been passed by parliament while many MPs were drunk.

What has happened (with Kitwanga) is just one incident…maybe there have been many more of similar nature in the past which contributed to legislators making inappropriate decisions,” Lijuakali said.

Another opposition MP, Magdalena Sakaya (Kaliua-CUF) was also in support of the idea to introduce random substance testing, describing the act of a member of parliament attending a House seating while drunk as unacceptable.

Backing Lijuakali’s proposal that such testing should not be restricted to MPs but also introduced in other public offices, Sakaya said the House could even come up with laws designed to ensure that people in general don’t go to their work-places while drunk.

Korogwe Urban legislator Mary Chatanda also said the Speaker plan was correct, querying plaintively how an MP could properly represent the interests of his or her people if he or she attended Bunge sessions while drunk.

Another Special Seats MP, Zainabu Mwamwinda (CCM), said MPs who showed up in parliament while drunk were not being fair to their voters because clearly they could not meet their expectations.

Mwamwinda called for alcohol and drugs testing for MPs to be included in the National Assemble Standing Orders. But Vunjo legislator James Mbatia (NCCR-Mageuzi) differed with other MPs in saying that the plan would not bear positive results.

Mbatia said the National Assembly should have been taking action against such incidents of public substance abuse by MPs as they occurred in the past, and not have to wait for the government intervention. He suggested that the country reconsider the proposed Warioba constitutional changes which underlined leadership principles and human dignity.

Temeke MP Abdallah Mtolea (CUF) said there was a need for political parties to hold accountable their members who attend Bunge sessions while drunk.

He also called on political parties to ensure that in future they endorse only decent” people to contest for privileged electoral positions like parliamentary seats. There is no need for the National Assembly to invest money on issues like conducting alcohol and drugs testing for MPs.

The political parties themselves can and should deal with their MPs who violate parliamentary protocol and standards, Mtolea said.

Habari Mpya

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