SPEAKER of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini has ruled that the three UPND members of parliament who walked out of the House before Bill 10 could be restored, were not out of order, despite participating in the National Dialogue Forum.
On December 3, 2019, Zambezi East UPND member of parliament Brian Kambita, his Lukulu East and Kapiri-Mposhi counterparts Christopher Kalila and Stanley Kakubo, respectively, walked out of the House out on First Deputy Speaker Catherine Namugala in disagreement to the motion.
This was right before Deputy Speaker Namugala asked the remaining members of parliament whether or not they agreed to the motion, which was still resolved in the affirmative via a simple majority.
But on December 4, 2019, as MPs were debating head number 52 relating to the Ministry of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection, Deputy Chief Whip and Kabwe Central PF member of parliament Tutwa Ngulube rose on a point of order, asking the Speaker to determine whether or not his colleagues, who had walked out of the House the previous day were in order.
“Thank you, Sir, for allowing me to rise on this important point of order affecting the affairs of this nation. The people of Zambia are aware that there is a very important process that this House is mandated to undertake and that is to approve the Constitution of Zambia Amendment Bill Number 10. Mr Chairperson, we are aware that more than 16 UPND members of parliament participated at the National Dialogue Forum (NDF) and earned allowances at the expense of the people of Zambia. As a House, we are elected to pass laws. Sir, throughout the process, these 16 members of parliament earned allowances, some for more than 12 days and others for more than 17 days. I believe that the people of Zambia elected all of us to pass laws and not to do politics. Sir, when the Committee was appointed to scrutinize the Bill that came from NDF, again, five members of UPND sat on the Committee and earned allowances. Mr Chairperson, we are aware that if an individual is a member of a Committee, they cannot vote against their own Bill, they cannot walkout or even protest against their own Bill. Sir, are the following members of parliament in order not to refund the people of Zambia the money they earned on the pretext that they were helping the government or the people of Zambia to pass the Constitution?” asked Ngulube.
“Mr Chairperson, were the following members of parliament in order to have walked out of parliament yesterday when their report was supposed to be tabled: Mr B. Kambita, MP; Dr C.K. Kalila, MP, and Mr S.K. Kakubo, MP. They were actually five, but honourable Kasonso and honourable Prof Lungwangwa decided to do the correct thing by sitting in the House, while three of them decided to go against the standing orders. These were members of the Select Committee, where they in order? I will now read the list of the members of parliament that participated at the NDF to come up of with the Constitution of Zambia Amendment Bill Number 10. These are as follows: Mr R. Bulaya, MP; Mr L. Fungulwe, MP; Mr S. Kakukubo, MP; Dr. C. Kalila, MP; Ms. C. Kasanda, MP; Mr. T. Kasonso, MP; Ms. P. Kucheka, MP; Mr D.M. Kundoti, MP; Mr. Liefu, MP; Mr V. Lumayi, MP; Mr. M. Mubeka, MP; Mr M. Mukumbuta, MP; Ms. S. Bulyata, MP; Mr. S. Mutaba, MP; Mr C. Nanjuwa, MP; and M. Ndalameyi, MP.”
In his immediate response, Second Deputy Speaker Mwimba Malama, sitting as Chairperson of the Committee of Supply, reserved his ruling to enable an investigation in the matter to be conducted.
And delivering the final ruling after the investigations, Dr Matibini ruled that the affected MPs did not have to refund government for the allowances they drew during the NDF because they participated in the entire Forum.
“Honourable members, the point of order by Mr T. S. Ngulube raises the following issues: firstly, whether members of the UPND, who were part of the National Dialogue Forum, were in order not to refund the government the money they earned as a result of the their participation in the NDF, and two, whether it was in order for the three members of the Committee tasked to consider the Constitution of Zambia Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019 to walk out of the Assembly when the report was supposed to be tabled in the House. I wish to confirm that all the members mentioned in Honourable T.S. Ngulube MP’s point of order, except for Dr. C.K. Kalila, MP, attended the NDF. Honourable members, as to whether members of the UPND, who attended the NDF, should refund government the money, which they earned as a result of their attendance, you may wish to note that the basis of paying members was their attendance at the NDF as provided by law. In this vein, there is, therefore, no basis upon which UPND members, who attended the NDF, should refund the money because they walked out on the motion to restore the Constitution of Zambia Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019 was being considered,” Speaker Matibini ruled.
“Honourable members from the outset, let me state that the question that was before the House on the material day and time was whether the Constitution of Zambia Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019, which lapsed as a result of the prolongation of the National Assembly on August 2, 2019, could be restored on the order paper. In this regard, contrary to Honourable T.S. Ngulube’s assertion in his point of order, the House was not considering the report of the Parliamentary Committee appointed to scrutinize the Bill. Thus, the question whether or not it was in order for the members to vote against their report by walking out did not even arise.”
And ruling on whether or not the three MPs were out of order to have walked out of the House, the Speaker ruled that the lawmakers’ walkout was a means through which they could express their displeasure on an issue affecting the House or the governance of the country.
“As regards a member walking out of the House, I have previously ruled on various occasions that a boycott or a walkout is a conventional means through which a member of parliament can express his or her displeasure on an issue affecting the House or the governance of the country. Honourable members, in view of the foregoing, the members of the UPND, who walked out when the House was considering the motion to restore the Constitution of Zambia Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019 on the order paper, were, albeit inexplicably so, expressing their displeasure or disagreement to the restoration to the Bill on the order paper. Therefore, the three members of the Select Committee, who walked out during the consideration of the motion to restore the Bill on the order where not out of order. I thank you,” ruled Speaker amidst a rapturous cheer from UPND MPs present in the House.