GOVERNMENT Chief Whip Brian Mundubile has admitted that Bill 10 had lapsed on June 4, 2020 but says the parliamentary Standing Orders Committee decided to extend it because it has powers to change its own rules.

Speaking at a press briefing at Parliament Building in Lusaka, Thursday, Mundubile said the parliamentary practice and procedure provided that if a bill was deferred for six months, it died or lapsed.

“The Standing Orders Committee is the highest decision making body in the National Assembly and is charged with the responsibility to consider all proposals for amendment for the standing orders and other rules f procedure. You may wish to know that there is no express provision in the National Assembly of Zambia Standing Orders 2016 which stipulates the time within which a bill must be considered at any stage of enactment. Nonetheless, the National Assembly manner of putting the question and procedural notice handbook states ‘(a) if a bill is deferred for six months, it is killed. In short, a bill that has been deferred for six months lapses in terms of parliamentary practice and procedure,” Mundubile said.

He said Bill 10 lapsed on June 4 as it had been deferred from December 2019.

“In this case, the bill lapsed on Thursday, 4th June, 2020, having been deferred on 4th December, 2019. However, at a time it lapsed, the House was still on recess. And had it not been for the premature adjournment in the February-March meeting, the second reading stage could have been probably been concluded one way or another. In view of the foregoing, the Standing Orders Committee met on Wednesday 24th June, 2020 to consider the request by the Honorable Minister of Justice to defer further consideration of the bill to a date not later than the last day of this meeting. It is for this reason that the Standing Orders Committee resolved to extend the life of the Constitution of Zambia Amendment Bill N0.10 of 2019 to a date not later than the last day of this meeting,” he said.

Asked if it was legal for the Standing Orders Committee to sit and deliberate on a Bill which had already lapsed, Mundubile said the committee had power to change its own rules.

“This is a committee that makes rules of procedure that governs the operations of parliament. As to whether it was legal, yes, it was legal because before it was tabled on the floor of the House, the committee sat in the morning and resolved that Bill 10 could be tabled. This same committee is given power from the Constitution of Zambia to regulate its own procedure. It is the highest decision making body in the National Assembly. So, this same Standing Committee amended the rules of this same sitting that parliament is now able to sit from various locations using electronic gadgets. This particular committee has power to change its own rules. Parliament through the committee acted within its own powers to revive the life of this Bill and place it on the order paper for further debate,” Mundubile explained.

Mundubile, who is also Mporokoso PF member of parliament, said those opposing the Bill were being negative.

“Bill 10 as it is on the floor is still in that original form. Those that are opposed to Bill 10 are bent on fighting Bill 10 to the end even when their concerns have been addressed. The issue of consensus is not about one grouping. It is not about one group not agreeing then there is no consensus. In this particular case, we are very saddened that that same spirit is being extended to parliament where a committee makes a decision,” said Mundubile.

On Wednesday, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Jack Mwiimbu said it was illegal for Parliament to continue debating Bill 10 because it had died.