ATTORNEY GENERAL Likando Kalaluka has submitted to the Lusaka High Court that the disciplinary action against Choma Central UPND member of parliament Cornelius Mweetwa was as a result of the lawmaker’s failure to follow laid-down rules of parliamentary practice and procedure.
And Kalaluka adds that freedom of speech and debate in Parliament is not without limits as it is only guaranteed within certain parameters in line with parliamentary practice and procedure.
In this matter, Mweetwa has petitioned the Lusaka High Court, seeking a declaration that the Speaker’s ruling that found him to have been out of order following a point of order raised by Lands Minister Jean Kapata that he attacked Vice-President Inonge Wina’s persona, is null and void.
On July 10, 2020, Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini in his ruling found Mweetwa to have been out of order in breach of Parliamentary Privilege and in contempt of the House.
Dr Matibini admonished Mweetwa as punishment for the same and asked him to apologise, but he declined.
Mweetwa stated that he had declined to apologise for the same because he verily believed that his reaction to the statement by the Vice-President was in enjoyment of his freedom of expression, assembly and association as guaranteed in the Constitution.
On November 13, 2020, the Clerk of the National Assembly wrote to him notifying him that he would be subjected to further disciplinary hearings on November 18, 2020, and later moved to December 2, 2020.
Mweetwa, who has cited the Attorney General as respondent, wants a declaration that the said ruling by Speaker of the National Assembly dated July 10, 2020, is null and void ab initio by reason of it being in breach of the fundamental freedoms enjoyed by him under Articles 11(b), 18, 20 and 21.
He also wants an order striking down section 3, 11 and 22 of the National Assembly Powers and Privileges Act; and an order that the pending disciplinary actions against him are illegal by reason of being in violation of Articles 11(b), 18, 20 and 21.
But in an answer filed in the Lusaka High Court recently, Kalaluka stated that Mweetwa was not entitled to any of the substantive reliefs sought.
He stated that the law as enshrined in the Constitution guarantees the rights of members of parliament to debate freely in the House.
Kalaluka, however, stated that the freedom of speech and debate in the House was not without limits as it was only guaranteed within certain parameters, in line with parliamentary practice and procedure.
He stated that the disciplinary action was as a result of Mweetwa’s failure to follow laid-down rules of parliamentary practice and procedure.
Kalaluka further stated that Mweetwa was accorded an opportunity to have his side of the story heard.
He added that by a letter dated July 17, 2020, the Office of the Clerk wrote to Mweetwa requesting him to exculpate himself for refusing to apologise to the House in general and the Vice-President in particular.
Kalaluka stated that Mweetwa would be put to strict proof with regard to the assertion that his reaction to the statement was in exercise of his constitutionally guaranteed rights when in fact it was a breach of the rules of the National Assembly.
He further stated that all actions taken by the National Assembly were within the scope of the mandate and in line with its practice and procedure.
“The respondent will aver at trial that the petitioner is not entitled to any of the substantive reliefs sought,” stated Kalaluka.