Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini has dismissed Choma UPND member of parliament Cornelius Mweetwa’s complaint where he alleged that Housing and Infrastructure Development Minister Ronald Chitotela issued death threats to him.
On Wednesday, November 14, 2018, when the House was considering Head 25 of the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, Mweetwa rose on a point of order in which he alleged that Chitotela had issued life-threatening remarks at break time after he made reference to the swelling corruption levels in the PF government.
In his point of order, Mweetwa narrated how Chitotela had approached him during tea break and issued the same threats, warning him to stop debating alleged corruption under his Ministry.
But in his ruling, Tuesday, Dr Matibini explained that Mweetwa’s complaint against the Pambashe PF lawmaker lacked substantial evidence to support the alleged death threats from Chitotela on his life.
Dr Matibini relied on a report from the Committee on Privileges, Absences and Support Services which after calling witnesses, discovered that all of them had a different account of what happened, where it happened and whether the words Mweetwa complained about had been uttered.
“Mr C. Mweetwa and Mr EK Belemu testified that the statement was made in the bar. Honourable RK Chitotela MP testified that he found Mr C. Mweetwa in the lounge. Testimony by Mr C. Mweetwa MP’s witness Mr D Syaklalima testified that Honourable RK Chitotela MP made the statement, while seated at a roundtable within earshot of the bar counter and Mr EK Belemu MP also testified that the statement was made in the bar. Testimony by Honourable RK Chitotela and his witnesses testified that they were seated in the lobby at the bar. However, he also testified that no such statement was made. Dr C. Mulenga, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, testified that they were seated at the terrace outside the bar. However, he also testified that no such statement was made. Mrs PC Kabamba, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs testified that they were seated at the lounge and no such statement was made. Mr W Mangimela deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs testified that they were seated in the lounge and that no such statement was made. And Mr EM Sibote, deputy Inspector General of Police testified that they were in the lounge and he also testified that no threats where issued by anyone,” Dr Matibini said.
“From the preceding testimonies, it is evident that four of the witnesses testified that they were seated in the lounge, three of the witnesses testified that they were seating in the bar and one witness testified that they were in the lobby at the bar and one witness testified that they were on the terrace outside the bar. Who was present when the alleged statement was made? Mr C. Mweetwa testified that he was with Dr M Malama MP, Mr D Syakalima MP, Mr EK Belemu MP when Honourable RK Chitotela made the alleged statement. Honourable RK Chitotela testified that he was with Mr C. Mweetwa MP; Dr M Malama MP; Dr C Mulenga; Ms Kabamba; Mr W Mangimela and Mr E Sibote. However, he made no mention of Mr D Syakalima MP and Mr EK Belemu MP as being present…Mr D Syakalima testified that he was seated with EK Belemu and Mr C. Mweetwa MP and that Honourable RK Chitotela was not seated with them, nonetheless, he was within earshot and B, Mr EK Belemu MP testified that when he entered the bar, he found Mr D Syakalima MP, Mr C Mweetwa MP and Honourable RK Chitotela conversing.”
The Speaker said that the Committee on Privileges noted some contradictions in the testimony by the witnesses, which made it difficult to ascertain what transpired on the material day.
“Based on the testimony before it, the Committee was unable to conclude that Honourable RK Chitotela MP had, indeed, made the statement attributed to him by Mr C. Mweetwa MP in his point of order and consequently dismissed the complaint and closed the matter. Honourable members, myself in considering and evaluating the decision arrived at by the Committee, I observed that the Committee on Privileges, Absences and Support Services was confronted with two conflicting versions of what transpired on the material day. While it is acknowledged and accepted that the Committee is a quasi-judicial body, it must nonetheless meet certain threshold of procedural justice. First, the basic common principle is that he who asserts must prove. In this case, the burden was on Mr C. Mweetwa MP and his witnesses to prove the allegations made in the point of order. Secondly, he or she who asserts must also meet or fulfil the standards of proof. Honourable members, the standard of proof is the measurement of the degree of certainty, which the evidence must produce in the mind of the tribunal of facts,” ruled Dr Matibini.
“In this case, the allegations made by Mr C. Mweetwa MP were very serious, indeed; they had criminal connotations! Therefore, the allegations required credible evidence. However, the evidence adduced by Mr C. Mweetwa MP and his witnesses left the Committee in doubt as to whether Honourable RK Chitotela uttered the alleged threats. I have, therefore, been persuaded by the conclusion arrived at by the Committee that Honourable RK Chitotela MP did not make the allegations or threats complained of. Consequently, I endorse the recommendations of the Committee that the complaint be dismissed. I thank you.”
Business continued in the House and the Speaker ordered Minister of General Education David Mabumba to issue a Ministerial Statement.
But Mabumba was presenting his statement, Mweetwa interrupted him on a point of order, order challenging the Speaker’s ruling, saying the Committee was unfair to him because it never granted him an opportunity to cross-examine Chitotela’s witnesses.
But Speaker Matibini insisted that: “It was my decision to dismiss your complaint and if you want to impeach it, you can impeach it as my decision and not as the decision of the Committee.”