PF Deputy Parliamentary Chief Whip Tutwa Ngulube says regardless of what UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema does to detach himself from having participated in selling the Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambians already know that he had a hand in the project.
But leader of the opposition in Parliament Jack Mwiimbu says it is shocking how the PF government could have remained ‘ndwii’ when a private individual sold a government property like the Lower Zambezi national Park.
Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Catherine Namugala has observed that PF and UPND are using Parliament to score political goals against each other, .
This happened in Parliament, Friday’ when lawmakers debated the 2020 national budgetary allocation to the Judiciary.
Ngulube threw the blame on the mining licence awarded to a private company in the Lower Zambezi National Park on the opposition leader, claiming there was evidence to the effect that Hichilema had a hand in the sale of the National Park.
“Madam chairperson, I am aware that right now in public domain there was a matter that was recently before the Judiciary, the issue of the Lower Zambezi where a company in which some individual has been hiding for many years decided to sell a national park and gave people an impression that he has nothing to do with that issue (and) the documents are on the websites. And if you are claiming to be a clean businessman who has not snitched money from other people using dubious means, why would I go and hide my money in the Panama or the Bahamas? We’ve got Zanaco here, we have got Indo-Zambia, we have got Natsave. A man who uses a phone for K50 pretending to be poor is one of the richest that we have! He sold our hotels and bought some of them; he sold a lot of things and it is very clear that regardless of what he wants to do today, the people of Zambia are aware that he had a hand in the Lower Zambezi,” Ngulube charged.
At this point, there was disorder in the House as Namugala struggled to maintain silence.
Running commentaries were heard with others saying ‘go back to Rwanda banyamulenge!’ while others were using Tonga saying ‘mwamubona niini oyu, amana walo wakaula maanda a K21.5 million mu Choma from the Egyptians (have you seen him, he also bought houses in Choma worth K21.5 million from the Egyptians), and somebody shouted saying ‘you have been recorded!’
As the noise escalated bringing business in the House to a halt, Namugala was heard shouting, “Order! Order! It looks like you all passed through the ‘coffee shop’ upstairs today!”
And when it was the turn for Mwiimbu, who is also Monze Central UPND member of parliament to debate, he wondered how PF leaders could have watched Hichilema selling the mines.
“Madam chairperson, I am so shocked to realize that the Zambian government under the PF are incompetent that they can allow an individual to take over their power and sell a park when they are seated there ndwii without knowing what they are supposed to be doing. Madam chairperson, the authority to grant an exploration license in any part of Zambia lays with the Ministry of Mines and the exploration license in the Lower Zambezi was given by the Ministry of Mines,” Mwiimbu said.
Then Chinsali PF lawmaker Kalalwe Mukosa stood on a point of order on whether or not Mwiimbu was in order to veer off the Judiciary budget to talk about the Lower Zambezi mining license.
And Namugala in her ruling said because Ngulube had also insisted on bringing the Lower Zambezi issue during his debate, Mwiimbu was equally in order.
But just when Mwiimbu was about to continue with his debate, Mines Minister Richard Musukwa also stood on another point of order wondering how the member on the floor of the House would insinuate that he was sitting ndwii as a responsible minister when the matter was already being taken care of by his Tourism counterpart, Ronald Chitotela.
In her ruling, Namugala used the opportunity to observe that PF and the UPND members were lowering the dignity of parliament.
“I will use this point of order to guide the House. The kind of debates that have been exhibited in the recent past are very disappointing because the people of Zambia are expecting us to discuss policy, the budget provisions for their benefits, but instead, we are using every opportunity to politic, wasting a very good time meant to serve the people of Zambia. And when I talk about using this time, unproductively, this goes to the main political parties, the Patriotic Front and the United Party for National Development. The two political parties in this House are missing out on the opportunity to speak for the people of Zambia and using this House to score political goals against each other, and in turn bring down the dignity of this very Honourable House that has seen eminent men and women go through it,” Namugala said.
“We owe it to our people to represent them and speak for them, especially at a time when we are discussing this important budget. I expect dignified debates from both sides of the House.”
When he was asked to continue, Mwiimbu charged that the decision to allow mining in the Lower Zambezi was made by the PF government during a Cabinet meeting.
“Thank you, Madam Speaker, and I would like to adhere to your advice very strictly that the responsibility to manage mining in this country lays squarely with the government. Once an exploration license is given, the Ministry of Mines grants a mining license and not an individual, unless that individual is bigger than PF government. Further, that decision to allow mining in the Lower Zambezi was done by the PF government in a Cabinet meeting, that is a fact,” Mwiimbu said.
But Namugala asked Mwiimbu to withdraw his statement where he referred to a Cabinet resolution when he was not a member of the Cabinet.
“Take your seat. The leader of opposition is not part of Cabinet. Unless he had evidence that this issue was discussed in Cabinet, I would like him to withdraw that statement… Order! Deputy Chief Whip [Ngulube], I am really restraining myself from sending you out of the House. Help me not to do that,” Namugala pleaded.
And Mwiimbu responded saying: “Madam chairperson, evidence in the public domain. Themselves are now accusing the former minister.”
Namugala insisted that Mwiimbu lays before the House evidence of his statement or withdraw it.
“Order. Cabinet consists, according to our constitutional provisions, of Cabinet Ministers and the President. Whatever they discuss, unless they themselves inform the nation [on] what they discussed, that remains a secret. Now, you have just made reference to a decision by Cabinet, and I have urged that if you do not have evidence that Cabinet discussed that, you have to withdraw it. That’s all. And then proceed with your debate,” Namugala ordered.
But Mwiimbu refused to withdraw his statement, saying that he was ready to justify it.
“I am not going to withdraw. And I will substantiate what I am saying, madam chairperson,” Mwiimbu insisted.
The exchange between Namugala and Mwiimbu persisted causing a further escalation of noise in the House until Namugala shouted: “Order! Leader of the Opposition, you know the rules of the House. If the chair says ‘withdraw’, and if you don’t have evidence, withdraw. The only way you can avoid withdrawing is to lay a document on the table if you have it. If you do not have it, you can ask for time or another opportunity to bring that evidence to the House. But in the meantime, veer off. Do you have it (evidence)?”
As Mwiimbu struggled to validate his point, Namugala curtailed him from debating on the matter where he referred to Cabinet without evidence.
The debate continued dragging as Mwiimbu reminded Namugala that there was a Parliamentary report on the issue which was adopted in 2014.
“Madam Chairperson, there was Mr Speaker’s report, which we debated on the floor of this House in 2014 and that report was adopted by this House and that is the evidence. Unless we are saying [that] the Speaker’s report is fake. The report is there and it’s judicial notice that that report was given, read and we approved it on the Floor of this House. And that is the evidence, which I have. I would like you to take judicial notice that your office has this report, which was adopted by this House.”
But still, Namugala asked Mwiimbu to withdraw his reference to Cabinet and instead refer to a document.
“Honourable leader of the Opposition, the issue that you had, which is now causing the interactions is the issue of you stating that Cabinet resolved. We all know that Cabinet meetings are secret unless Cabinet members themselves inform the public of the resolutions. Now, leader of the opposition, you have cited the report of the committee being the source of the information, I still want you to withdraw that statement that ‘Cabinet resolved’ and instead cite that report by year and the committee. I want you to withdraw that reference by Cabinet. Proceed,” ordered Namugala.
Finally, Mwiimbu, in the end, withdrew that reference.
But he then appealed to the Judiciary to speed up the case involving President Edgar Lungu’s nationality.
“Those who are pretending to be leaders in this country and there are matters in court questioning their nationality, the Judiciary must speed up this process because Zambians don’t want to be led by foreigners,” appealed Mwiimbu.