The Law Association of Zambia has warned Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini that both he and the Members of the House will be cited for contempt if they proceed to push the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill No 10 of 2019 without consideration of the ramifications of its various positions.
The warning is in response to the Speaker’s letter dated August 16, 2019 in which he said the House would proceed to consider the Constitution Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019 despite the matter being before the Constitutional Court.
Speaker Matibini, through Clerk of the National Assembly Doris Kapumba, stated that the decision not to halt proceedings on the Constitution Amendment Bill No. 10 on account of the doctrine of exclusive cognizance which provides that the House enjoys exclusive and unfettered jurisdiction in the conduct of its internal matters.
LAZ has petitioned the Presidency of the Republic of Zambia, the Attorney General and the National Assembly, challenging their decision to alter the Constitution in the manner set out in the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill No 10 of 2019.
And LAZ’s lawyers Simeza Sangwa and Associates, in a letter dated August 21, 2019, copied to the Attorney General, stated that the provision in the Constitution to punish those found guilty of contempt is not an empty clause.
“Unless it is the intention of the National Assembly to push the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill No 10 of 2019, through the stages outlined in your letter without debate or consideration of the ramifications of its various provisions, both you Mr Speaker and the rest of the members of the National Assembly will be in contempt of court,” the letter read.
“Equally self-evident is the fact that the proviso to Article 18(8) of the Constitution, which recognizes the right of any court of record to punish ‘any person for contempt of itself notwithstanding that the act or omission constituting the contempt is not defined in written law and the penalty therefore is not so prescribed’ is not a hollow provision.”
The lawyers stated that the office of the Speaker of the National Assembly and the National Assembly itself were creations of the Constitution and are subject to it.
“We hold these facts to be undeniable. Firstly, that the supremacy clause in Article 1(1) of the Constitution is not an embellishment to the Constitution. It means something and it has repercussions. The Constitution of Zambia is and has always been the supreme law of the Republic of Zambia. Mr Speaker, the office of the Speaker of the National Assembly and the National Assembly itself are creations of the Constitution, therefore they are both subject to the Constitution,” the letter read.
They noted that they have been forced to respond to the Speaker’s letter due to the nature of the case.
“We are in receipt of your letter of 16th August 2019, whose content we have noted, in response to ours of 12th August, 2019. It has never been the tradition of this firm to debate the law through correspondence. In this case, that is and remains the province of the Constitutional Court. However, the nature of this case and the issues in contention call for a departure from this long held ideal,” stated Simeza Sangwa and Associates.