Speaker of the N ational Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini says he disagrees with the Constitutional Court’s ruling that he overstepped his mandate to interpret both the law and the Constitution.
And Dr Matibini says instead of confining itself to the specific complaint before it when he declared the Roan seat vacant, the ConCourt went outside the rennet of the complaint and commented on a matter that had not even been canvassed by the parties.
Dr Matibini said this when he rendered part of his ruling on a point of order raised by Mazabuka Central UPND member of parliament Garry Nkombo on why parliament wanted to continue debating on the Constitution Amendment Bill Number 10 when there was an active matter before the court.
“The observation by the Constitutional Court that the Speaker, and this is the Speaker, that the Speaker has no power to interpret the law and the Constitution was made by the way, obiter dictum, just a remark which is not binding upon future courts. Though it may be respected according to the reputation of the judge, the eminence and the circumstances in which it came to be pronounced. Honourable members, it is self evident in all the preceding cases that the various speakers including of course myself have interpreted relevant provisions of the law in general and the constitution in particular in order to rule on points of order in question. There are various pieces of legislation that regulate the operations of the National Assembly and notable among these are the constitution itself,” Dr Matibini said.
“In view of the forgoing, I am not persuaded by the observation or indeed suggestion by the Constitutional Court in the Kambwili case that the speaker has no Constitutional mandate to interpret the law and the constitution. I do not with respect, agree with the constitutional court that the speaker has no constitutional mandate to interpret both the law and the constitution. Honourable members, my understanding or interpretation or Article 77 (1) of the Constitution and section 34 of the National Assembly Powers and Privileges Act is that the National Assembly has power and jurisdiction to conduct its internal affairs. As a matter of fact, the Constitutional Court acknowledge the doctrine of exclusive recognisance in the case of Chishimba Kambwili and the Attorney General when it referred both to Article 77 of the constitution and section 34 of the National Assembly Powers and Privileges Act.”
As speaker was rendering the point of order, background voices of some MPs were heard chatting while others complained of system failure, saying that the speaker was talking to himself.
“We are not getting the speaker now. Speaker, we can’t hear you. Mr speaker you are speaking to yourself. We are locked with the system, it is failing us. We can’t hear anything,” the MPs said.
Dr Matibini then posed for a moment until the sound system error was rectified.
In his two and half hours ruling which was sub-divided in four parts, Dr Matibini continued with his disagreement against the Constitutional Court’s ruling that he overstepped his boundaries when he interpreted both the law and the constituion.
“Honourable members in my immediate response to the motion, I indicated that I had not had sight of the court process that the honourable member had referred to. Consequently, I stood down the proceedings to enable me examine the court process in order to decide what course of action to take, on resumption of the House, I informed the House that granted the issues raised in the point of order and the documents and precedents both judicial and those founded on parliamentary practice and procedure required to be examined, a lot more time was required to ponder over the point of order, in order to render a measured ruling, I therefore reserved my ruling. I am now ready to render my ruling,” Dr Matibini said.
He said the matter which the case should have addressed was on whether or not his declaration of the Roan parliamentary seat vacant was lawful.
“The constitutional court went on to observe in passing that the speaker has no power or mandate to interpret both the law and the constitution because that is the exclusive preserve of the courts of law. To this end the constitutional court speaking through its precedent, honourable madam justice Hilda Chibomba observed that pages 37 and 38 as follows ‘our firm view is that while the speaker was well within his power to respond to the point of order that was raised on the floor of the house, he exceeded his powers when he proceeded to apply the purposive canon of interpretation of statutes. In order to cure the lacuna that he identified in Article 72 of the Constitution as amended, we found that the speaker exceeded the power as the function of interpreting the law and the constitution is vested in the judiciary as provided by Article 119 of the Constitution. Therefore, by ruling as he did, the speaker exceeded his constitutional power as he encroached into the adjudicative function of the courts of the land which are mandated to exercise judicial authority of the republic,” Dr Matibini said.
“Honourable members, the question or issue on whether or not the speaker has power to interpret the law and the constitution did not fall for decision. Instead, what the constitutional court was required to pronounce was whether or not my declaration of the Roan parliamentary seat vacant was lawful. Thus, the constitutional court instead of confining itself to the specific complaint before it, the court went outside the rennet of the complaint which it was invited to hear and went on to comment on a matter that had not even been canvassed by the parties.”
He said this in responding to a precedence case which was raised by the Nkombo in his main point of order where he has asked why the house wanted to proceed debating on Bill 10 when there was an active case in court.
Nkombo said when the motion to impeach president Lungu was taken for deliberation in parliament, some citizens took the matter to court and the speaker’s office said that matter was a subject in the courts of law.
He said three years down the line, the petition against the impeachment motion was still in court and has halted the debate of the matter before the House.
But Dr Matibini did not finish his ruling on the matter due to new parliamentary guidelines which require the House to end business at 17: 00 hours.