SPEAKER of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini has ruled that Mitete UPND member of parliament Misheck Mutelo was out of order when he the uttered the words: “Mwendi abalati fela ma Lozi (maybe government doesn’t like the Lozi people)” in Parliament.
Dr Matibini was giving a ruling on a point of order raised by Minister of Justice Given Lubinda, who denounced Mutelo’s statement as hate speech.
“I raise on a very serious point of order and I would like to apologize to the honourable member, Sir, I have only recovered from a minor shock and I seek a ruling. The honourable member for Mitete said in vernacular that, and I quote: ‘Mwendi abapati fela ma Lozi,’ meaning they just do not want Lozis in reference to the government,” complained Lubinda.
“I, therefore, seek your ruling whether that statement itself is not an expression of hate speech and an expression of one who would want to foment tribalism in this Parliament. Is he in order to make such statements to remain on the record of Parliament? Sir, I seek your ruling on this very important matter, particularly at a time when all well-meaning Zambians and honourable members of parliament, are working very hard to stop the growth of this tendency of tribalism in our country.”
And Dr Matibini ruled that although Mutelo was out of order, his statement was not tantamount to hate speech.
“I perused the verbatim record of Mr Mitelo’s debate of Thursday’s 20th February, 2020, which gave rise to Honourble G. Lubinda’s, MP, point of order. It is revealed that Mr M Mutelo, MP, uttered the following words in Lozi: ‘Mwendi abalati fela ma Lozi’, which when translated in English means: ‘maybe they just hate the Lozi people!’ Honorouble members, Honourable G.. Lubinda’s point of order alleged that Mr M Mutelo, MP, used hate speech or unparliamentary expressions in this House. In order to address the allegation, I found it necessary to define the phrase hate speech. Honorable members, I had recourse to Bryan A. Garner, editor in chief of the Black’s Law dictionary, Ninth Edition 2009, which defines hate speech at page 1529 in the following terms: ‘speech that carries no meaning other than the expression of hatred for some group, such as a particular race, especially in circumstances in which communication is likely to provoke violence’,” Dr Matibini said.
“The import of the above defition is that hate speech involves one’s public expression of hatred for a particular race or grouping, which causes a negative reaction towards that race or grouping that may even result in violence. From the verbatim record, it is evident that Mr M Mutelo, MP, used the phrase complained of in reference to absence of a temporal bridge on the Lusaka-Mongu road and not as an expression of hatred against any particular group or class of persons. In this regard, the statement did not, in my considered view, amount to hate speech.”
He, however, urged members of parliament to desist from uttering statements that might promote unnecessary tension in the country.
“However, while the statement did not amount to hate speech the context in which Mr M Mutelo, MP, used it contained that the Zambian government does not like the Lozi people, hence the delay in the rehabilitation of the Lusaka-Mongu temporal bridge. This in itself, honourable members, has the potential to provoke a perception among the Lozi people that the government has ill feelings towards them when in fact, it is not substantiated. Therefore, to the extent Mr M Mutelo, MP, suggested that the government disregards the Lozi people, he was out of order!” ruled Dr Matibini.
“Honourable members, I wish to cease this opportunity to urge honourable members to desist from making unfounded statements that turn to promote ill feelings among citizens. As honourable members, you are national leaders and should not be in the forefront promoting ill feelings among citizens. Such statements not only tend to lower the decorum and dignity of the House, but also have the potential of causing unnecessary tension in the country in general, and the House in particular. I, therefore, urge members to desist from such conduct.”