SPEAKER of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini says the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) infringed on a member’s right and freedom to debate when it questioned the manner in which Mitete UPND member of parliament Misheck Mitelo debated on the floor of the House.
And Dr Matibini has ruled that the matter be resolved administratively since it involves two institutions that both enjoy immunity.
On December 4, 2019, Mitelo had raised a point of order asking the Speaker on whether or not the ACC was in order to question him over matters debated in Parliament.
“Madam, way back on Tuesday, 24th September 2019, I contributed to the debate which was on the floor of this House and the following day on 25th September 2019, the Anti-Corruption officials called and sent text messages wanting to meet with me. Being a national representative of the people, I agreed. On the same day around 19: 00 hours to 20: 00 hours, they found me right in the Parliament motel restaurant. I welcomed them and said ‘I am here.’ Then they started questioning me concerning my debate for the previous day and yet this is totally against the laws that we have set for ourselves,” Mitelo said in his point of order.
He said the law was clear that members of parliament have powers, privileges and immunity to debate in the House without being liable or questioned in the courts of law.
“The Constitution of Zambia in Article 76 (1) and paragraph 2 [states that] ‘a member of parliament has freedom of speech and debate in the National Assembly and that freedom shall not be ousted or questioned in a court or tribunal’. A member of parliament shall have the powers, privileges and immunities as prescribed in Section 3 Cap 12 of the Laws of Zambia says ‘there shall be freedom of speech and debate in the Assembly. Such freedom of speech and debate shall not be liable to be questioned in a court or tribunal. A member of parliament shall have the powers, privileges and immunities as prescribed.’ Were the two ACC officers in order to come and question me over matters that were debated in this House?” Mitelo asked.
In his ruling, Dr Matibini said the ACC infringed on a member of parliament’s freedom of speech and right to debate in the House.
“The point of order by Mr Mutelo MP raises the issue of parliamentary privilege and contempt of the House vis a vis a person harassing a member of parliament for a statement he made on the floor of the House and thereby infringing on the members freedom of speech and debate in the House,” Dr Matibini said.
He said he then referred the matter to his committee on Privileges, Absences and Support Services which then wrote to the ACC.
“Honorable members, I referred the matter to the Committee on Privileges, Absences and Support Services for their consideration. And in line with parliamentary practice and procedure, and in accordance with the rules of natural justice, the office of the Clerk of the National Assembly wrote to the Anti-Corruption Commission as well as officials that were alleged to have met Mr Mutelo MP. In addition, the office wrote to a Mr Njamba who was allegedly with Mr Mutelo, MP, when the ACC officers met him. All the witnesses made written submissions,” Dr Matibini said.
He advised that the matter be resolved administratively and that it had already been closed.
“The committee subsequently met and deliberated on the matter. During its deliberation, the committee had recourse to the written submissions of all the witnesses. After considering all the submissions from the witnesses, the committee established that the matter concerned two institutions that both enjoyed immunity as prescribed in the national assembly, Powers and Privileges Act 12 of the Laws of Zambia and the Anti-Corruption Act 3 of 2012. In view of this, the committee recommended that the issue be resolved administratively. Honourable members, I applied my mind to this matter and I have endorsed the committee’s recommendation that the matter be handled administratively. I wish further to inform the House that the committee met both parties and concluded the matter as pointed above. Therefore, this matter is for all intents and purposes closed,” ruled Dr Matibini.