HEADS are expected to roll soon in the Office of the President and Cabinet amid reports that a witch-hunt has already been launched to sniff out culprits who caused President Robert Mugabe to embarrassingly present an outdated speech during the official opening of Parliament on Tuesday.
This comes as opposition MPs caused a storm in Parliament on Wednesday, as they demanded heads to roll following the blunder, which saw Mugabe reading a speech he presented during his State of the Nation Address three weeks ago, instead of one laying out the legislative agenda.
Insiders on Wednesday said Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba, who issued a terse statement acknowledging the gaffe and promised corrective action, was probably off the hook, but the noose seemed to be tightening on other officials in the Office of the President.
“The chief of protocol, Munyaradzi Kajese, seems to be a clear target, as the fall guy along with a female secretary called Gwatiringa.
“These are among a host of officials who are in deep trouble, they are likely to be the scapegoats, although even Charamba should have realised the mistake sooner.
“To make matters worse, when the President’s aides realised he was reading the wrong speech, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and other senior people had the correct speech.
“Parliament officials also had the correct speech that was withdrawn when they realised all had gone wrong,” a government source said.
Sources revealed that a number of officials have been summoned to explain the gaffe. Charamba was not available for comment.
MPs yesterday said the mistake had caused irreparable damage to both Mugabe and the country’s image internationally and demanded those responsible for the mix-up be relieved of their posts. They also demanded a public apology from leader of the House, VP Mnangagwa. Some MPs suggested Mugabe could have been sabotaged by his subordinates.
Tempers flared after Mnangagwa sought leave of a joint sitting of the National Assembly and Senate to withdraw the wrong text and delete it from the records of Parliament and substitute it with the correct document.
Immediately, MDC-T chief whip Innocent Gonese raised a point of order with the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda, saying before that leave was granted, Mnangagwa should give an explanation on why there was a mix-up.
“It is important for the VP to furnish us with reasons why there was such a mix-up, and whether it was due to negligence, recklessness or sanctions, or whether there is a hand of ‘Gamatox’ in it which could have caused it,” Gonese said. Mudenda ordered Gonese to withdraw the word “Gamatox” saying it had to do with Zanu PF internal politics, not the issue being interrogated.
He, however, allowed MPs to contribute to the debate on Mnangagwa’s motion to withdraw the wrong speech.
Kuwadzana East MP Nelson Chamisa (MDC-T) said Mugabe’s blunder was a serious issue, as it had gone viral on social media networks and was picked up by international news agencies.
“This is a fatal issue of sovereignty and we cannot tolerate this kind of mistake, where a wrong speech is given to our President,” he said.
“As MPs, we have to make sure we get to the bottom of this matter. To ask the VP to come back to Parliament to debate issues that were supposed to be done is criminal and those people responsible should account to this legislative foul. Heads are supposed to roll.
“If we do not punish these people, the President will be coming with wrong speeches from the Heroes Acre to Parliament. The President cannot be abused to that extent. This is an international story. It is going to kill tourism because we are talking of no ordinary person, but about the African Union chairperson.”
Musikavanhu MP Prosper Mutseyami (MDC-T) said: “What if he had been given a eulogy of the speech on the death of former VP Joshua Nkomo, or even a speech that says he is resigning?”
Leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Thokozani Khupe urged Mnangagwa to apologise to MPs and the nation.
MDC legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga demanded to know why the correct copy of Mugabe’s speech had been published in the State media on Wednesday before it was tabled in Parliament.
After the debate, Mnangagwa said MPs should respect the principle of separation of powers, adding it was not in the legislature’s purview to demand interrogation on how the gaffe happened.
Mudenda ruled Mnangagwa had adequately explained that it was the duty for the Executive to fish out the culprits. Mnangagwa’s motion was then adopted and the wrong speech replaced with the correct one.