The Patriotic Front yesterday dragged debate on the Constitution Amendment Bill number 10 of 2019 after falling short by one member of parliament to meet the required two thirds majority to pass the Bill through Second Reading.

And Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini reserved a ruling after UPND Monze Central member of parliament Jack Mwiimbu raised a point of order on whether parliament was in order to continue siting despite measures announced by the Ministry of Health to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

When Justice Minister Given Lubinda introduced the Bill, all members of the UPND walked out save for three who opted to stay, namely: Professor Geoffrey Lungwangwa of Nalikwanda Constituency, Teddy Kasonso of Solwezi West and Mukumbuta Mulowa of Senanga.

Other MPs who had pledged to vote agains Bill 10 but remained in the House are NDC Roan member of Parliament Joseph Chishala who defied his party position and Nalolo Independent member of parliament George Imbuwa.

In an interview, UPND Mazabuka member of parliament Gary Nkombo accused the PF of playing the money game after realising that they did not have the numbers.

He said the weak souls among opposition and Independent MPs had been exposed.

“As a party, we opted to walk out of the House, but three of our colleagues remained. These are Honourable Lungwangwa, Honourable Kasonso and Honourable Mukumbuta. Then our colleague, the Roan NDC MP also remained, I think he agreed to vote with them. Maybe they cashed out, I don’t know; and then the Independent MP for Nalolo,” Nkombo said.

“Practically, these are guys who, at their own volition, came to meet with us to say that we are together, but they were clearly spying for PF to see what sort of strategy we would play. Especially the Roan MP, because he had double-assured that he would stand with the people of Zambia, but most to our surprise, they decided that they would not move, they stayed. So basically they are five MPs, three from UPND, one independent for Nalolo and the NDC MP, Mr Joseph Chishala.”

He said PF were looking for one vote and the targeted independent member of parliament was seeking solace with the UPND.

“At this point, the PF is down by one member, and I can confirm with you that they are busy lobbying and offering the other MP whom I am sitting with right now. We are seeing all the phone calls, text messages coming from the PF, asking for a meeting with him. So our thinking is that they will let this debate go on in the House until tomorrow so that they have enough time to cash out. Look, it’s a cash business now, and for me this is just a PF Constitution. Since they don’t have the numbers, they have resorted to buying. The weak souls have clearly shown their faces,”said Nkombo.

“We don’t have hope that any of the MPs who have remained can vote against the bill. That is done. So as you can see, we are walking a tight rope because of this one number that they are looking for. And you can see their frantic efforts, they are all over the place. The rest of the UPND MPs are solid I would say and they are in need of this one Independent MP.”

When contacted for a comment, NDC president Chishimba Kambwili expressed surprise at the development in the House, but said he did not want to jeopardise the meeting he planned to have with the NDC lawmaker who defied the party position.

“I don’t want to say anything that can jeopardise the meeting we are supposed to have with him this evening. I think that today (yesterday) they are just debating and voting is going to be tomorrow, so we are supposed to have a meeting with him later,” said Kambwili.

Meanwhile, in his point of order, Mwiimbu questioned why parliament could be in the forefront breaking the laws that had been put in place pertaining to the corona virus.

“Mr Speaker, I am aware that the minister of health has issued Statutory Instrument number 21 and 22 of 2020 pertaining to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, he has further issued instructions that members of the public should ensure in their interaction, they are one meter to two meters apart. As a citizen of the Republic of Zambia, who doesn’t want the coronavirus to spread, Mr speaker I would like to find out whether this house is in order to allow us to break the instructions that has been given by the Ministry of Health that we should be one or two meters apart, yet here in the house we are only centimeters apart. What precedence are we setting on the part of the public when we are in the forefront breaking the laws pertaining to the corona virus, are we in order to continue sitting as members of parliament?” asked Mwiimbu.

And in response, Dr Matibini noted the importance of the point of order and said that he would reserve his ruling so that he could render a measured response.

“My ruling: I do appreciate the importance of the point of order and the implication of course in-view of very recent developments to combat, as it were, the coronavirus. Because of the importance of the subject, I will reserve my ruling so that I render a measured response, that is my ruling,” said Dr Matibini.