Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Catherine Namugala yesterday accused UPND Whip Garry Nkombo of wanting to divide the country according to provinces.
This was after Nkombo, who is also Mazabuka UPND member of parliament, observed that Southern Province MPs had not been given a chance to debate the budgetary allocation to the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure Development.
After debates on the ministry were concluded, Namugala read out the first individual item on the budget when Nkombo rose to offer his misgivings.
“Thank you Madam, I was actually preparing to stand on a point of order, but now that you have recognised me, I appreciate. Madam we have just gone through a very important note and I would like [you] to take judicial notice that Southern Province was completely alienated from participation of this vote. Regardless of the fact that the Business of the House committee did agree, which you are aware about, that I, being the Whip will indicate to you, honorable chair…,” Nkombo said but Namugala cut him off.
“Honorable Whip of the UPND, the issues that are raised in the business committee should be left there. If they were meant for all the members of this House, they would all be members of the House business committee, they are not. You are members by virtue of the positions that you hold and many of the issues that have been discussed in that committee are to be discussed or revisited within that committee. I would like to advise you Whip that if you have any grievances, you raise them in that committee and I know that there is a scheduled meeting very soon,” Namugala said.
Nkombo insisted that he wanted it to be in record that Southern Province MPs were excluded from the debates.
“I take your advice Madam but to just put it on record that we have not participated in this vote as if we don’t belong to Zambia, I thank you,” Nkombo said.
But Nalugala accused Nkombo of trying to divide the country, adding that there were a lot of factors she considered when moderating debates.
“I will not comment on that because I believe that Zambia is a unitary state and we cannot become regional in our debates. Honorable Whip for UPND, please desist from wanting to divide the country according to the provinces. There have been times, as chairperson of this committee, I don’t look at provinces, there are many considerations that I take into a account and you will know that there have been times when other provinces have not debated and they have not raised issue with that fact. I put the question, the question is that K162,946,480 stands part of the estimates, as many are of that opinion say I…” said Namugala.
In a statement today, however, Nkombo charged that Namugala’s remarks were abusive.
“I take great exception to her insinuations as highly confrontational and abusive, and unfair to me as I have a job to do. It appears to me that the Speaker and his deputy are functioning at cross purposes. I refuse to be dragged into cheap regional slander by anyone including herself. It should be noted that those who rush to label others by region are the worst in this cause,” he stated.
Nkombo also said there was nothing secret about parliamentary committees.
“The public deserves to know the truth about the way business is run in the house. It is a fact that on account of the limited time parliament has left to attend to passing of the budget, the Speaker cordially sought the indulgence of all members through the whips from both sides PF and UPND and of course the other groupings MMD, FDD and independents to understand the time limitations available to complete this task ahead. For the last week I personally have been responsible to consult widely among our members who to debate on what vote and submit in writing to the presiding desk. Why then change a settled decision by the committee by oneself?” asked Nkombo.
“If anyone wishes to confirm this position, you are welcome to do so with the Speaker himself, the Clerk of the National Assembly Mrs Cecilia Mbewe or indeed my PF counterpart And Government Chief Whip Hon Richard Musukwa. How can she even say in her remarks that ‘what is discussed in the business of the house meeting must remain there’ as if it is a secret? Be that as it may, budget scrutiny and approval is a very serious undertaking and culminates into the appropriation law. Therefore should not be trivialized by the presiding officers to use their authority to abuse equals.”