PF protest was unconstitutional – Speaker

Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini says the protest by PF cadres at Parliament last Thursday amounts to intimidation and they are liable for arrest and prosecution.

In a ruling on several points of order raised by opposition members of parliament over the protest, Wednesday, Speaker Matibini said the protest was a breach of parliamentary privilege.

“Honourable members, information supplied to my office by the National Assembly security department is that on the material day, at around 13:40 hours, about eight Rosa buses ferried people wearing Patriotic Front (PF) regalia to the main gate, the occupants disembarked and started advancing towards the main gate. Honourable members, owing to the large number of people that gathered at the gate, the left lane of the road was completely occupied by the protesters. As a result, vehicles entering and leaving the precincts of Parliament could only use the right lane. This obviously caused a disruption in the smooth flow of traffic in and out of the Parliamentary precincts. The Zambia Police Service officers were on hand to manage the security situation outside the premises while National Assembly Parliamentary security officers concentrated on screening vehicles entering the precincts of the National Assembly,” Speaker Matibini said.

“I am further informed that the police officers were reluctant to remove the cadres that had blocked the road as they feared that the already volatile situation, would escalate. Honourable members, I am further informed that there was no injury to any person or damage caused to any motor vehicle of a member of parliament, staff og the National Assembly or indeed any member of the public on the material day. Lastly, the cadres eventually left the main gate area around 14:40 hours, on their own accord. It is self- evident from the attire and the placards that the cadres were carrying that they were either Patriotic Front (PF) cadres or their sympathizers, who were apparently expressing their dissatisfaction with the conduct and outcome of the Sesheke Parliamentary by-elections. Honourable members, I would like to state from the outset that Article 88 (1) of the Constitution of Zambia, Cap. 1 of the laws of Zambia, gives citizens the right to petition the National Assembly. It is couched in the following terms ‘A citizen may petition the National Assembly to initiate the enactment, amendment or repeal of legilation’.”

He outlined the correct manner in which aggrieved parties were supposed to protest.

“Further, standing order 160 (1) of the National Assembly of Zambia standing orders, 2016 allows citizens to petition the National Assembly on any subject matter that falls within its jurisdiction. Honourable members, where citizens seek to petition Parliament, there is a procedure provided for in standing order 160 (3) and (4) as follows: (3) A citizen who wishes to petition the Assembly… shall deliver or send to the office of the clerk, during normal working hours, a type-written letter or a completed form in Appendix I to these standing orders. (4) the letter under paragraph 3 shall be addressed to the Speaker; ask the House to take action on a specified subject matter; be signed by a petitioner; be in English language; and have the full name of the petitioner; address and a day time telephone number’,” he said.

Speaker Matibini said police presence was enhanced at Parliament after he engaged Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja after the episode.

“In the instant case, the preceding procedure was not followed at all. While no injury or damage to property was caused, I wish to state that the conduct of the PF cadres and their sympathisers at the main gate amounted to intimidation and harassment of members of parliament. The conduct in question was not only a breach to Parliamentary privilege but also an offense under the National Assembly (powers and privileges) Act, making the offenders liable to being arrested and prosecuted. Honourable members, on the material day, I engaged the Inspector General of the Zambia Police Service. During that engagement, I expressed concern about the security of members of parliament and other persons entering the precincts of Parliament. The Inspector General assured me that the Zambia Police Service would keep vigil, around the precincts of Parliament, until the situation is normalised. It is for this reason that, since then, a high presence around the precincts of Parliament has been maintained,” he said.

Speaker Matibini, however, said he had no jurisdiction to mete out punishment on the PF cadres because the the application and enforcement of the Public Order Act falls under the domain of the Zambia Police Service.

“The legal requirement for any person who intends to assemble or convene a public meeting, procession or demonstration to give the police at least seven days notice of the person’s intention to assemble or convene such meeting, procession or demonstration. In his point of order, Mr G G Nkombo, MP, asserted that the cadres in question gathered without notifying the police as required by section 5 (4) of the Public Order Act. He went on to assert that section section 5 (4) of the Public Order Act requires a person who intends to hold a public assembly to notify the police of the meeting at least seven days prior to the day of the meeting. To this end, I must hasten to add that the application and enforcement of the Public Order Act falls under the domain of the Zambia Police Service, while its interpretation is a preserve of the courts of law. Therefore, I have no jurisdiction in the administration or enforcement of the Public Order Act,” ruled Speaker Matibini.

“As I conclude, let me say this, it is self-evident that the events of Thursday, 14th February, 2019, are upshot of the just ended by-election in Sesheke. It is common knowledge that the by-election was marred with violence. Therefore, incumbent, especially upon us assembled here in this August House to reflect deeply on violence that marred the just ended by-election. And collectively, make concerted efforts to forestall the recurrence such violence. Practicing violence is in our politicking is not a panacea. It is in fact said that violence breeds violence. We should, therefore, take collective responsibility for maintaining and cherishing peace, a value that Zambia has been renowned to guard jealously, time immemorial.”

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