YOUTH, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment minister Patrick Zhuwao was yesterday kicked out of Parliament on suspicion that he was drunk after he queried MPs’ line of questioning, continuously giggled and exchanged harsh words with Youth and Indigenisation Parliamentary portfolio committee chairperson Justice Mayor Wadyajena.
Zhuwao was being quizzed by the committee on allegations that he clandestinely engaged Thandi Ngwenya’s Triple Bottom Line Consultancy to craft an economic empowerment strategy.
Ngwenya then allegedly invoiced the ministry $28 000, but permanent secretary George Magosvongwe refused to pay because the understanding was that Ngwenya was offering free services.
A defiant Zhuwao alleged the Wadyajena-led committee was on a witchhunt and seemed confused as to whether they were monitoring, investigating or making an inquiry on the issue.
“I want to understand whether there is a specific issue that the committee needs to understand and whether the committee is on a witchhunt,” Zhuwao retorted as soon as the committee requested him to make his presentation on Triple Bottom Consultancy, his relationship with Ngwenya and the reasons why Magosvongwe said he had nothing to do with the engagement of Triple Bottom Consultancy.
But Wadyajena said: “We do not hunt witches here and we do not see you as a witch, please be serious, minister, and allow us to do our job as a committee.”
Zhuwao told the committee members that they did not know what they were doing, arguing answers to their questions were already on the economic empowerment strategy or had been provided by Magosvongwe.
When called to order and told to be serious, Zhuwao responded giggling: “I am very serious and the fact that I am smiling does not mean I am not serious. I am Patrick Zhuwao and will answer questions in a manner unique to Patrick Zhuwao.”
Nketa MP Phelela Masuku (MDC-T) then asked Zhuwao to explain his relationship with Ngwenya.
Zhuwao said they shared the same totem while insisting Ngwenya offered free services to the ministry. He angered MPs when he asked them their totems.
Chitungwiza North MP Godfrey Sithole (MDC-T) then asked Zhuwao to confirm if Ngwenya gave the ministry an invoice after her company offered services. But Zhuwao challenged MPs to prove the existence of an invoice while also objecting to the manner of their questioning.
“That is exactly what happens when there is a witchhunt. If the committee was serious in getting what exactly transpired, they would have interrogated evidence before it. Is there an invoice?” Zhuwao queried laughing. MPs could not take it anymore, and Chiredzi North MP Darlington Chiwa (Zanu PF) supported by Mkoba MP Amos Chibaya (MDC-T), then suggested the minister must be chucked out on suspicion that he was drunk and was going round and round in his answers.
“The minister is drunk and he can come back sober,” Chibaya said.
Zhuwao replied: “On a point of order, one of the MPs has cast aspersions that I am not sober. Is it the position of the committee? It has no basis for an MP to accuse me of not being sober and you (Wadyajena) as chairman was laughing at that.”
Zanu PF Proportional Representation MP Nomsa Mhlanga said she had known Zhuwao since he was a toddler and was worried that his behaviour yesterday seemed unusual.
Wadyajena then kicked Zhuwao out of the committee hearing, saying he would be resummoned to appear when he was prepared to answer in a serious manner.
Speaking to journalists after the aborted hearing, Zhuwao said he was sober and serious.