The National Assembly of Zambia says the Speaker acted within the law by suspending 47 UPND members of parliament because they exhibited intentional disrespect by boycotting President Edgar Lungu’s State of the Nation address in March.

In an affidavit in opposition to summons for leave to apply for judicial review filed yesterday, acting National Assembly Deputy Clerk Cecilia Sikatele said whilst Speaker Patrick Matibini recognized the MPs’ right to boycott proceedings of the assembly, the President’s addresses were an exception.

“That the conduct of the applicants was contemptuous because by their boycott of the State of the Nation address by the President of the Republic of Zambia on Friday17th March 2017, they committed an act of intentional disrespect…we wish to state that the Speaker is (acting alone) empowered to discipline Members of the National Assembly,” Sikatele stated.

She submitted that the 47 MPs were afforded an opportunity to be heard before being charged of which they replied through their advocates.

Sikatele further stated that the MPs were warned that boycotting President Lungu’s address again would attract a stiffer punishment.

And Sikatele availed that Namwala UPND member of parliament Moono Lubezhi was erroneously included amongst the suspended MPs because she had sought permission, forcing Speaker Matibini to remove her from the list of those suspended.

In their court action, the UPND MPs said they were exercising their democratic right to expression as such the suspension was a shock.

Lusaka High Court judge Petronella Ngulube has reserved ruling to next week Thursday on whether or not grant the suspended MPs leave to apply for judicial review; which will stay the Speaker’s decision or not.