THE Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) says Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini erred in interpreting the law, as that is a preserve of the Constitutional Court.
And LAZ says there is no law that gives the Standing Orders Committee the power to extend a Bill that has lapsed.
In an interview, LAZ president Eddie Mwitwa said that the Constitution clearly indicated that the ConCourt had the mandate to interpret the Constitution.
“The issues of the Speaker and the ConCourt, I mean, we have given the matter some consideration and we are with the Constitutional Court on the question that who has the mandate to interpret the Constitution. That is what the Constitution itself says. It is extremely clear. I mean, if you look at Article (1) (5) it says, ‘any matter relating to the Constitution shall be heard by the Constitution Court.’ In Article 119, the same Constitution gives the power to interpret the laws and the Constitution for our courts of law,” Mwitwa said.
“When you go further to Article 128 (1) (a), it gives the Constitutional Court the exclusive mandate to interpret any question relating to the Constitution other than a matter that is reserved in the High Court under part three of the Constitution. So, we are of the considered view that the Constitutional Court was right in determining as it did; that the Speaker had no mandate under our laws to interpret the Constitution in the manner that it did.”
He stressed that Parliament’s mandate was to make laws and not to interpret the law.
“Our separation of powers, granted is not 100 per cent pure, there are some overlaps…you see Cabinet Ministers finding themselves in the Legislature, so they are part of the Executive. So, there are instances where there are overlaps between the two organs, especially of the State, particularly the Executive and the Legislature. But any lacuna or any question as to who has the power to interpret laws of the Constitution is resolved by the Constitution itself. The articles I have referred you to are explicit, they are extremely clear. So, the preserve of interpreting laws is for the courts of law; Parliament makes the laws, it has no mandate to interpret the law. If the Legislature is exceeding its mandate, it is only the courts that can make that determination. That is our view,” he said.
And Mwitwa said there was no law that gave the Standing Orders Committee the power to extend a Bill that had already lapsed.
“That is another issue where, again, you can see that there is a lot of confusion I think within the ruling party or on the promoters of the Bill. Our considered view is that there is no law that gives Parliament the right to extend a Bill that has lapsed. We followed the Government’s Chief Whip’s (Brian Mundubile) statement to the press where he gave the justification for the deferment of Bill 10 and we have looked at the standing orders of Parliament of 2016 and we have not found any justification there that gives the Standing Orders Committee the power to extend a Bill that has lapsed. So, that, for us, obviously, calls for concern. But again, if there is an issue, if that Bill should be tabled in Parliament, again, we believe that the courts can also be invited to make a decision on that,” Mwitwa said.
Meanwhile, Mwitwa said that the Association was still awaiting for the ConCourt to set a date for the hearing of the Attorney General’s application on the illegal stay of Ministers in office when Parliament was dissolved in 2016.
“Well, the matter is still in court, we are just waiting for a date of hearing. You may recall that before the COVID-19 pandemic hit all of us, the ConCourt had set the date for the hearing of the Attorney General’s application, for the Court to determine what the Ministers are supposed to pay back. That application hasn’t been heard; it was last scheduled to have come up in April, so we are still waiting for the date of hearing. The matter hasn’t died and it will not die until they (Ministers) will pay back!” said Mwitwa.
Last week, Dr Matibini said he reserved the power to interpret the Constitution within the confines of the operations of the Legislature.
This was after he disagreed with the ConCourt ruling that he has no jurisdiction to interpret the Constitution.