There was drama inside UNZA Radio studios yesterday when UPND deputy Spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa and Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) leader Sean Tembo called each other names during a heated political programme.
The incident started when Mweetwa called Tembo’s PeP as a “one man party” as the duo exchanged views on the Lusaka Star morning programme.
This ‘frank talk’ however, angered Tembo who hit back at the UPND, shooting down their impeachment motion as baseless and lacking clarity of thought.
Mweetwa then got agitated and accused the PeP leader of insulting his intelligence; as the two politicians grew impatient of each other, leading to a quarrel.
Below is how the programme proceeded.
Tembo: I think I wish to reiterate my earlier statement that the UPND lacks clarity of thought because…
Mweetwa: I think you know that you cannot be insulting our intelligence Sean Tembo! No, let’s be fair, I have tolerated you enough. You are insulting us.
Tembo: I am not insulting you.
Host (Mulenga): Excuse me…
Mweetwa: No, can you be fair. I have respected you, you have been saying this!
Tembo: It’s not an insult, we allowed you to speak, so can you allow us to speak?
Host: Can I be allowed to moderate?
Mweetwa: Be civil in your language. That is what I am saying.
Tembo: It’s civil, it’s civil!
Mweetwa: You have made a lot of ridiculous statements which I have tolerated. You are attacking UPND and I’ve left you. You cannot say we lack clarity of thought.
Tembo: But that is the fact!
Host: Honorable Mweetwa, please let me take over!
Tembo: Lacking clarity of thought is not an insult.
Host: President Tembo, maybe in the interest of this discussion, kindly withdraw that so that we continue with the discussion.
Tembo: No we cannot withdraw that. Lacking clarity of thought is not an insult. He said… you know the disparaging remarks he made about us earlier on? About us being a one man party, did we complain about that? So why should ‘lacking clarity of thought’ be considered as an insult? It’s not an insult. It’s a fact, you lack clarity of thought, as simple as that. Can I proceed now?
Mweetwa: This man is insulting. We can’t have a debate where you are telling me that I lack clarity of thought, that’s an insult. You are insulting my mind!
Tembo: You called me a one man party, is that a good thing? You mean we don’t have members?
Mweetwa: Be civil in your language!
Tembo: We are very civil!
Mweetwa: Me I have understood you and I accept your critics. I can tell you…
Tembo: We have also tolerated you Honorable.
Host: We are coming to the end of the programme, just make your points clear and maybe try to be as civil as possible.
Tembo then concluded his debate by saying that, had the UPND applied much more thought to the impeachment motion and done more research, it would have been more informed.
“So now why I said that, when you look at the issue which is the impeachment motion before parliament, it is a replica of what happened in 2002 when parliament tried to impeach president [Levy] Mwanawasa on the basis that he had violated the Constitution by appointing Nevers Mumba as vice president, someone who had contested in the last election and failed. And for sure Mwanawasa had violated the constitution because the constitution was very clear on that. So the argument which the honourable MP is talking about to say you can still debate a matter which is before the court is totally wrong. And this is why we are saying that if they had applied much more thought to this issue, they would have done a bit of research. And their motion would have been more informed. But the trouble with our colleagues perhaps is that whoever tries to advise them is seen as an enemy. They don’t look at the advice,” said Tembo.
Meanwhile Mweetwa said all the issued raised in the impeachment motion were not out of political bitterness, as alleged, but were emanating from the Constitution.
“He has raised the issue of the motion being laced with bitterness. I don’t know how you can determine bitterness because all the points that were raised in the motion, these are points that emanate from the Constitution. And remember, there was wide consultation with the citizens and this motion was drafted by lawyers. So to be told that it is laced with bitterness I don’t know, maybe the law itself, he may not understand, provides for bitterness within some of the articles that are being cited,” Mweetwa said.
And on revelations that the grounds were frivolous, Mweetwa said it was unparliamentary for him to debate details of a motion which was already before the speaker’s office.
“As to a question of being frivolous, I mean frivolous is not something to argue about. It is a legal term which implies that your arguments are unsubstantiated. That is what it means. In terms of this motion, I am constrained to go in detail because as a member of parliament, it is a motion which is active before Mr Speaker and it isn’t right for me to debate the charges that are contained in the motion. It does not lie at my door steps here at UNZA Radio but before Parliament. Outside the house, I would just debate the structure or the intention of the motion and not the detail of it because the motion is before Parliament,” he added.
And Mweetwa also challenged the PF to produce one member of parliament who had been bought by the UPND to support the impeachment motion.
“Take it from me now, the issue of anybody signing twice, criminal what [and] what, those issues would have already been before court [with] the way I know PF. There is nothing, it is just a shred. It is an issue where some people concocted [just like] the same way they have concocted this issue of saying that no we are paying ministers as UPND, paying PF MPs to vote for the impeachment. Can they produce one MP who has been corruptly paid? The only thing is that if you ask me, I can parade MPs of PF if they agreed, those who agreed with us to say that time has come to do things right, they were going to vote. And I can tell you that PF are in panic,” Mweetwa said.
“Right now our colleagues are telling us that this period, they have been receiving a lot of phone calls. There is a lot of witch hunt right now in PF with some people being promised that ‘when the impeachment comes, vote against it, we know you are a back bencher, but when the president travels to this international function, you will also be part of it’. But look, if the motion had come on Wednesday that day, we would have been talking about a different story.”
And Mweetwa said UPND MPs would not have sworn their allegiance to the President if they had not recognized him.
“So this issue of saying we don’t recognize Lungu, if we did not recognize Lungu to that extent, would we go to Parliament and swear before the President? Would we have somebody called ‘a leader of the opposition?’ if we have a leader of the opposition, who is in government? The issue of President Lungu winning an election and whatever, that is a matter which is in court. As Parliament we are not a court. When you are in Parliament, a matter can be in court, you can refer to it, provided you don’t dwell into the nitty’ gritties of that matter,” said Mweetwa.