THE Constitutional Court’s ruling that Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini cannot interpret the Constitution can spur dictatorship in the governance of the country arising from possible conflict between the two arms of government, says government Deputy Chief Whip Tutwa Ngulube.
In an interview, Ngulube argued that the ConCourt’s judgement might create a battle between the Legislature and Judiciary.
“Being a member of the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ), being a member of parliament, you see, I foresee a situation where we might have a silent battle between the Legislature and the courts. We want to urge our judicators, the ConCourt, we also want to urge any other judicial functionaries that as far as we are concerned, it was not even necessary at the time they were delivering that judgement to include Mr Speaker’s power to interpret the Constitution. That argument was not advanced by any of the parties before the Court,” Ngulube said.
“We need to avoid the tyranny that the Judiciary has had for many years; the Judiciary must allow other organs of government to function within their spheres of operation without necessarily gagging. The Judiciary should not gag Parliament. Parliament should have independence to even make mistakes, they should make laws. The ConCourt should only come in when they are called upon where the law has been broken; where there is an alleged infringement of law. You cannot stop someone automatically to say, ‘from now on, don’t do this, that,’ no! That is not how we operate. Otherwise, the wheels of justice will be on stand-still.”
He insisted that there was need for the ConCourt to revisit their ruling on the Speaker’s powers.
“The ConCourt needed to revisit that comment, it wasn’t even a judgement, it was a comment. So, they need to revisit that comment in order to allow Parliament to conduct its business without fear from the ConCourt. The ConCourt should also operate in their own boundary without fear from Mr Speaker. That tyranny, that dictatorship that is trying to grow in the ConCourt of trying to stop Mr Speaker from doing whatever, no! Courts, yes, can change the law, they can interpret the law, but we want to say it will not be necessary at this point to create a rift between the ConCourt and the Legislature because there is no need,” he argued.
“No Zambian will benefit from such division. That amount of division should not even be entertained; we should actually make sure both organs, which are created by the Constitution, operate in their own spheres. Let the ConCourt continue operating as a ConCourt within the mandate given to them by the law; let Mr Speaker also operate within the spheres given to him by the law so that at the end of the day, we do not have a situation where everything that goes to Parliament, or everything that goes to the ConCourt, will include Mr Speaker in the judgement; this is not what we want to see. The Court must be mindful that every comment they make is binding; every comment they make, even if it is not needed by anyone, the moment it comes out in a judgement, it becomes part of a judgement.”
Ngulube, who is also Kabwe Central PF member of parliament, added that Dr Matibini had the power to interpret the Constitution regarding parliamentary business in the National Assembly.
“Mr Speaker cannot run Parliament without interpreting the law. You can imagine we can end up having an unnecessary constitutional crisis where when the Speaker wants to deal with any matter in Parliament, he must refer to the ConCourt. How many times will the Speaker rule? How many times will Parliament function? So, we want to make it very clear that in the internal affairs of Parliament, and as regards to parliamentary business, there is nothing that stops Mr Speaker from interpreting the Constitution. If they are saying, ‘outside Parliament,’ yes, it is the ConCourt, inside Parliament, it is the Speaker. If somebody has an issue and then he takes it to court, yes, the Court can interpret, but in the internal affairs of Parliament, and the internal governance structure of Parliament, in the day-to-day running affairs of Parliament, the Speaker has power to interpret the Constitution,” argued Ngulube.
“Who is the Speaker, right now, as we are speaking? The Speaker is a High Court Judge. The Speaker is a State Counsel, qualified judge; he is competent to interpret the Constitution. In fact, Dr Matibini is one of Zambia’s very few fine brains! If you look at his CV, it cannot be compared to some of these people, who are making all these arguments. We want to say even without being Speaker, Dr Matibini is competent to interpret the Constitution because he is a judge and, secondly, Dr Matibini is State Counsel; also, Dr Matibini is an academician. He is an author, he is everything else; you cannot even compare him to some of these people who are trying to shoot in the dark! If we say Mr Speaker should not interpret the Constitution, we will be creating an unnecessary constitutional crisis, which is not even needed as at now. For now, we do not need that type of crisis.”
Last week, Dr Matibini argued that the ConCourt was wrong to state that he had no power to interpret both the law and the Constitution when he declared Chishimba Kambwili’s Roan Parliamentary seat vacant.