Judge demands MP’s flag-coloured jacket

Source: Judge demands MP’s flag-coloured jacket | The Herald June 27, 2017

Fidelis Munyoro Chief Court Reporter
The High Court has requested pictures of MDC-T legislator Trevor Saruwaka’s jacket bearing colours of the national flag, in a case in which the politician seeks to enforce his right to freedom of conscience and religion.

Mr Saruwaka, the legislator for Mutasa Central, caused a scene when he entered the National Assembly wearing the jacket last year. He was ejected from the House. Mr Saruwaka argues that the colours were in accordance with his Rastafarian faith.

Through his lawyer, Advocate Tawanda Zhuwarara instructed by Kudzayi Kadzere of Kadzere, Hungwe and Mandevere law firm, Mr Saruwaka approached the High Court challenging his ejection from the National Assembly last October for sporting the flag-coloured jacket.

Justice Lavender Makoni heard the matter which is anchored on constitutional rights. She reserved ruling, but requested to see photographs of the jacket.

“I want to have a look at the jacket’s front and back view,” said Justice Makoni. In his application, Mr Saruwaka listed Speaker of the National Assembly Advocate Jacob Mudenda and the chief security officer of Parliament as respondents.

Adv Zhuwarara argued that Adv Mudenda had no right to determine the colour of clothes his client must wear in Parliament.

He also argued that his ejection for wearing the flag-coloured jacket was unlawful and an infringement on his right to freedom of conscience and religion. Adv Zhuwarara said there were no provisions in the Standing Rules and Orders of Parliament that barred Mr Saruwaka from wearing such colours.

He submitted that his client, being of the Rastafari religion, had a right to freedom of conscience and religion in terms of Section 60 of the Constitution. Adv Zhuwarara said the right included propagating his religious beliefs whether in private or in public within the confines of the law.

By denying his client access to the National Assembly, Adv Zhuwarara said, Adv Mudenda had elevated himself above the Constitution without lawful cause.

In his counter-arguments, Adv Mudenda, who was represented by his lawyers Mr Simplisius Chihambakwe of Chihambakwe, Mutizwa and Partners, said he had the discretion to determine whether the apparel an MP wore befit the dignity of the august House or not.

Mr Chihambakwe referred to a ruling that Parliament made on May 18 last year banning national flag in the house.

He argued that Adv Mudenda exercised his powers in terms of Order 76 of the National Assembly Standing Orders and Rules. According to the rules, the attire for males is prescribed to be a suit, jacket and tie.

It was also Mr Chihambakwe’s contention that Mr Saruwaka jumped the gun when he rushed to the High Court without exhausting Parliament internal remedies at his disposal.

Mr Saruwaka’s National Assembly spectacle took place after Adv Mudenda ruled in June last year that the national flag would not be allowed in the House.

This followed the “abuse” of the flag under the #ThisFlag campaign. Several MDC-T legislators, including Mr Saruwaka, had entered the house with national flags on their necks.