Government Chief Whip Brian Mundubile says he has observed with dismay the use of unpalatable language among members of parliament when debating on the floor of the House.
And Mundubile says he called for a caucus meeting for all Cabinet Ministers and members of parliament from the ruling PF and the opposition MMD, FDD as well as Independent MPs last week in order to equip them with more information on Bill 10.
In an interview, Mundubile said he had been liaising with other whips on the need to step up awareness and sensitization for members of parliament to be civil to each other.
“We want members, first of all, to be present when they are required; we want members to use palatable language whenever they are debating and we want parliamentarians to debate objectively so that the Zambian people can benefit from the many debates. What we have observed with dismay is that in many cases, members of parliament are veering off the subject on the Floor and begin to bring in other things that are not relevant to the subject matter,” Mundubile complained.
“So, as whips, I am the head of all the whips, being the government chief whip, I have been liaising with other whips that we need to step up awareness and sensitization with our members to be civil to each other because we are called ‘honourable members’ not for nothing. We are supposed to be honourable in our approach and we must be civil to each other such that when you are delivering a point in the House, you must observe the decorum and etiquette of the House. And at the same time, when you are addressing a fellow honourable member, you must give them the due respect that they deserve. So, we are stepping up disciplinary measures to ensure that members of parliament do not get away with it.”
Mundubile said he would equally not take lightly any misconduct by members of the House.
“What you will observe is that, as the Committee on Privileges and Absences, which is in charge of discipline to which I also belong to, in the recent past has been taking stern action against MPs that are misconducting themselves in the House. But even for us whips, we are also interested and we have taken it upon ourselves, first of all, to agree and then tell our members that we want Parliament to remain respected. We want this Parliament to maintain its integrity. And, therefore, we will not take lightly to misconduct by the members in the House,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mundubile explained what necessitated the caucus meeting last week.
“The job of the party whip is to get the members to understand the main issues that are happening in Parliament. We, as a party, have a position on Bill 10; so there was no need to persuade any member as regards to Bill 10 because we already have a position that we are supporting it. And in the caucus, we discussed a number of things, including the restoration of Bill 10. So, there was nothing unusual about what we discussed,” Mundubile said.
He observed that there were so many versions of Bill 10 out there, which people were confusing the real document with.
“For instance, you will note that when you listen to the many discussions around Bill 10, it’s clear that there are many other versions of Bill 10, not the Bill 10 that we know. For instance, there is a Bill 10 out there that says that, ‘it will destroy Zambia’s democracy!’ There is a Bill 10 out there that is saying that, ‘when it’s enacted into law, the President will take away power from Bank of Zambia (BoZ) to start printing money’; there is a Bill 10 out there that is saying that, ‘it will provide for the appointment of judges that are friendly to the PF’; there is also a Bill 10 out there that is saying, ‘the President will appoint an endless number of judges’; there is also a Bill 10 out there that is saying that, ‘the stay of the President should be extended to seven years’,” he observed.
“So, we were telling our members that the argument around Bill 10 can go on forever if we don’t understand what our Bill 10, (which is) the real Bill 10 says. We were equipping our members with information to say, ‘can you counter the other ‘Bill 10s’ that are out there because our Bill 10 does not talk about extending power to the President to seven year;, our Bill 10 does not talk about taking away power from the Bank of Zambia and giving it to the President to print money; our Bill 10 does not speak about the appointment of judges that are friendly to the PF. So, of course, by that time also, we had to discuss the report because the report (by the parliamentary select committee) is out.”
Mundubile, who is also PF chairperson for the Disciplinary Committee, said some thorny issues in the proposed Bill were removed after stakeholder consultation.
“So, as a political party, we review the report and see how many concerns were addressed in the report so that when our members go out there, we are all speaking the same language to inform the Zambian people that the other Bill 10s people are referring to are not the Bill 10 that is going to come to Parliament because the Bill 10 that will come to Parliament is not going to extend the power of the President; the Bill 10 that will come to Parliament will not take away powers from the Bank of Zambia; the Bill 10 that will come to Parliament will not provide for judges that are friendly to the PF,” Mundubile argued.
He added that because other parliamentarians were not lawyers, it was important to hold the caucus meeting to make everybody understand.
“We meet to discuss a number of issues and to inform each other because not everybody is a lawyer, for instance, and not everybody will understand things the way others do. So, if we have a caucus, we all have an understanding because MPs can ask questions to say, ‘we hear that there is also this, so what is the truth?’ Then you clarify and show them to say, ‘look at this, his is the Bill, read it.’ And I am sure that you may have heard of the interview yesterday (Monday) between Honourable Tutwa Ngulube and Linda Kasonde. You realize that there are other Bill 10s out there because when the lady was challenged and this is a Chapter One president, who has been the number one activist, you will realize that she was speaking from a different document, not a document that we know,” said Mundubile.
“So, we have brought our members up to speed as regards to the Bill 10 that will come to Parliament. We have also brought them up to speed to show them, for instance, that (in) the recommendations of the report, deputy ministers are no longer there; the coalition government is no longer there; the power of Parliament to approve loans remains in the Constitution. Our Bill 10 is not as contentious as the Bill 10s that they are debating about because even for me, I won’t support a Bill 10 that destroys Zambia’s democracy; I won’t support a Bill 10 that extends the President’s power to seven years; I won’t support a Bill 10 that provides for the appointment of judges that are friendly to a political party. So, the Bill 10 that they have been condemning is not our Bill 10.”
When asked why the opposition UPND MPs were not invited to the caucus meeting, Mundubile said that the meeting was strictly between the PF and its alliance partners.