UPND members of parliament yesterday walked out of the House after Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini ruled that it was not prejudice for Parliament to debate Bill 10 despite an active court case touching on the same.
And Speaker Matibini has reserved ruling on a point of order raised by Lupososhi PF member of Parliament Bwalya Chungu on the opposition’s walk out, saying it was difficult to form an immediate impression since parliamentarians were seated in different rooms.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Jack Mwiimbu says Bill 10 has expired because the time to debate it has elapsed.
Ruling on a point of order raised by Mazabuka Central UPND member of parliament Garry Nkombo on whether the House was in order to debate Bill 10 when there was an active court matter in the High Court bordering on Article 63 of the constitution on debt contraction, Speaker Matibini said the National Assembly was not debarred from discussing urgent matters of public importance such as Bill 10.
He said the National Assembly was supreme and sovereign in the exercise of its legislative power.
“In keeping with the diverse authorities on subjudice that I referred to earlier on, the National Assembly is not debarred from discussing urgent matters of public importance such as the Constitution of Zambia Amendment Bill number 10 of 2019. At any rate, the authorities referred to above, also laid down if the subjubdice rule were to be made applicable to an enactment of legislation, it will not make only the National Assembly subordinate to the courts but also make an enactment impossible because of pending court actions,” Speaker Matibini said.
“Needless to state that the National Assembly is supreme and sovereign in the exercise of its legislative power. In the exercise of my discretion as Speaker, I rule that it is not subjudice for the National Assembly to proceed with consideration of the Constitution of Zambia Amendment Bill 10 of 2019 notwithstanding the action commenced by Mr Dipak Patel in the Constitutional Court against the Minister of Finance and the Attorney General. That is the end of my ruling.”
He said Parliament could not put on hold debates just because Patel’s case touched on one provision of the Bill.
“The fact that one clause in the Constitution of Zambia Amendment Bill number 10 of 2019, and specifically clause 13, proposes to amend Article 63 (2) (d) which requires the National Assembly to approve the public debt before it is contracted cannot not warrant the National Assembly not to proceed to consider the bill which contains a wide range of legislative proposals. To put it plainly, the action before the Constitutional Court in Patel is substantially different to the Constitution of Zambia Amendment Bill number 10 of 2019,” ruled Matibini.
“The Constitutional Court held that it did not have jurisdiction to impeach a bill. Therefore, since the Constitutional Court has no jurisdiction to impeach or question a bill, it cannot in any way be prejudiced by the National Assembly proceeding to debate the Constitution of Zambia bill number 10 of 2019.”
Soon after the ruling, UPND MPs left the House in protest, necessitating Bwalya’s point of order.
“Mr Speaker, are the honourable members of parliament from the UPND in order to walk out of the chamber…Are they in order Mr Speaker to deny their electorate a chance to hear them and also to allow themselves to participate in the affairs of this country?” asked Bwalya.
But Speaker Matibini reserved his ruling saying he was unable to form a clear impression.
“Thank you honourable member for Lupososhi. As you can imagine, we are all seated in different locations and it’s very difficult to form a clear and immediate impression as to why that has happened. Otherwise I have representatives from my office in all the rooms. Therefore, in due course, they will be able to supply me with a full account as to what is happening and thereafter, I should be able to render a much more meaningful ruling. But for the time being, it’s very difficult for me to react extempore at least. So in short, I have reserved my ruling,” said Speaker Matibini.
Meanwhile, at a media briefing soon after leaving the House, Mwiimbu said Bill 10 had expired.
He said as at 4th June, 2020, parliament had concluded the session in which Bill 10 was expected to be concluded.
“For those who are not aware of Parliamentary proceedings, let me explain. When a bill is introduced in Parliament, it has to be concluded within that particular session. Those are the rules. And because in December we had clocked six months, it had to be renewed for another six months. From the 4th of December to the 4th of June 2020, that is six months. This particular Bill number 10 procedurally was supposed to be concluded on the 4th of June 2020. Today is 24th of June 2020, days after the lapse of the bill it is still appearing on the order paper,” Mwiimbu said.
He said government’s attempt to push for the enactment of Bill 10 was illegal.
“Take note that from the 4th of June to date, legally, procedurally, there is no Bill 10 on the floor of the House. Bill elapsed o the 4th of June. Please note, the so called Bill 10 was buried on the 4th of June, 2020. There is an unmarked grave at Chingwere. There is no such bill anymore. Whatever Parliament and the PF through the Minister of Justice is doing is illegal,” said Mwiimbu.
“As UPND and fellow independents, we are not going to be part of the illegality. We cannot debate a bill that has elapsed, there is no bill. If the PF wants bill number whatever to be brought back to Parliament, they should go back to the drawing board, they should start afresh, gazette whatever bill they would want, after that it should come for first reading, second reading and whatever stage. At the moment there is no Bill 10.”