GOVERNMENT Parliamentary Chief Whip Brian Mundubile says UPND members of parliament secretly phone him to express their support for Constitution Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019 because they fear speaking publicly will get them kicked out of their party.
And Mundubile says the continued resignations of UPND councillors in Western and North-Western provinces is a protest by residents in these areas against the opposition party’s stance on the bill.
Commenting on claims by the UPND that the PF was buying off councillors from opposition strongholds, Mundubile said councillors were resigning of their own will because they were opposed to the UPND’s undemocratic style of leadership.
“We are in a democratic dispensation. But the challenges some political parties are having is that there is no internal democracy in their parties. There is no freedom of expression in these political parties. This has frustrated a number of politicians. Not so long ago, we were talking about Bill 10 where I came out very clearly that over 60 per cent of the UPND MPs are in support of the Bill. It’s not a rumour; UPND MPs directly come to speak with me to say, ‘can you please phone our president, please make him understand that there is nothing wrong with this Bill.’ But then I tell them to say, ‘this is your president’ and they say, ‘in our party, if I speak, that’s the end of me!’ So, there is a lot of internal pressure within the UPND. So, even some of these councillors, who are resigning, they want to express themselves, but then they fear that they won’t be adopted. So, this is where they just say, ‘we are going to walk away’,” Mundubile said.
“So, this is a lesson, it’s a lesson to all of us. But if you look at Article 60 of our Constitution, it talks about the need for parties to hold elections regularly because if you are a party that positions to take over power and you are not holding regular elections, how are you going to be democratic when you take over power? What we are seeing is that there are undemocratic tenets in some political parties where people can’t speak! I gave an example of Bill 10, most people must have wondered, there is what we call a three-line whip. When I issue a three-line whip to my party officials, they just have to follow. But the moment that my colleague, Honourable Jack Mwiimbu for the opposition issued a three-line whip, after which they also physically restrained the MPs from attending the session where Bill 10 was introduced, what does it say? Because by disobeying his three-line whip already, that member is as good as gone! But then, all this just goes to show you that their members really wanted to support Bill 10.”
Mundubile insisted that MPs were people’s representatives who needed to be allowed to represent their electorate without interference from the party they belonged to.
“If you are an MP, you are a people’s representative. I don’t go to Parliament to represent my views; I go to Parliament to represent the views of the people of Mporokoso. When you talk about a Constitution, a Constitution is not a party matter; it is a document of conscience. The reason why, as the overall Whip of the House, I did not issue a three-line whip is because I understand that the Constitution is a document of conscience where an MP, based on the instructions that the people in his constituency have given him, should come and vote in that line. But the moment you turn a document of conscience into a political aspect, a lot of frustrations happen,” he said.
And Mundubile said opposition councillor resignations in Western and North-Western Provinces was a protest by the electorate in those areas against UPND’s stance on Bill 10.
“When you have MPs from Western Province, North-Western Province supporting Bill 10 and they are criticized by their political party, and following that criticism, a number of councillors begin to resign, you see the connection; that’s a protest. Then someone comes up and says, ‘these councillors are resigning because they have been paid.’ But what will be their answer when elections have taken place and UPND has lost that particular election? It’s clearly a protest, the people of Western Province are protesting because, remember, issues to do with Bill 10 also hinge on issues to do with chieftainships. The powers of the Barotse have been taken away and only Bill 10 can restore that power. So, some of those people are saying, ‘but we want the power of the Barotse Royal Establishment to be reinstalled through Bill 10.’ If someone goes against that, councillors are resigning,” Mundubile said.
“If councillors were being paid to resign, then UPND should have been winning those by-elections. But UPND is losing those by-elections. So, the writing is on the wall, those people in these areas are protesting against the decision that UPND took to go against Bill 10. So, councillors, being representatives of the people, are simply resigning. You are going to see what is going to happen soon, there are almost 10 by-elections that have been created.”
Meanwhile, Mundubile said it was regrettable that the country was losing a lot of resources to by elections caused by UPND’s lack of intra-party democracy.
“It’s very sad that UPND must continue to be undemocratic and, thereby, creating these by-elections this way. We are not happy! These by-elections are very expensive. The lack of democratic tenets within UPND is creating expensive by-elections. Had they not been conducting their party politics the way they are, we wouldn’t have those 10 to 15 by-elections and this country could save a lot of money and use it in other productive sectors. But because of being undemocratic, councillors are protesting and they are resigning. So, you can justify the resignation of these councillors to say, ‘councillors are being bought,’ what about the voters? Were the voters also bought? So, we want to call upon the UPND to restrain them from the temptation of being undemocratic in the way they conduct their politics. We are tired of these resignations because they are affecting our economy badly,” said Mundubile.