SPEAKER of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini says Parliament is not an avenue for settling political battles occurring outside the House and that they should be concluded outside the Legislature.
Speaking when rendering a ruling on the point of order raised by Livestock and Fisheries Minister Professor Nkandu Luo against Sesheke UPND member of parliament Romeo Kang’ombe, Thursday, on whether a statement he made against her on Prime Television, stating that the Head of State failed to mention her name when he spoke on tribalism, was defamatory and malicious, Dr Matibini said Kang’ombe was not out of order.
“Honourable members will recall that on Tuesday, 10th March, 2020, when the House was considering question No. 235 on the Order Paper and Mr D Livune, member of parliament for Katombola parliamentary constituency was about to ask a follow-up question, Honourable Prof Luo raised the following point of order: ‘Mr Speaker, I just want to emphasise that I rarely rise on points of order, but this one is very compelling because it borders on maligning people and a defamation of character. I am raising this point of order on the Honourable member of parliament for Sesheke. Sir, before I raise my point of order, I want to say that I have spent all these years building my name professionally and politically. Thus, I take great exception for any honourable member of parliament in this House to start maligning my name! Mr Speaker, I was watching a television clip on Prime TV in which the honourable member of parliament for Sesheke said the following: when the Head of State spoke on tribalism, he failed to mention the name of Prof Luo. Prime TV is watched by many people’,” Dr Matibini narrated.
“‘Is the Honourable member of parliament for Sesheke in order to malign my name without any evidence of tribalism? Is that the reason the United Party for National Development (UPND) brought a private member’s motion to this House to try and cleanse its name? I seek your serious ruling, Mr Speaker, on whether the Honourable members of parliament are going to be in order to be maligning other people’s names’.”
The Speaker went ahead to rule on the matter.
“In my immediate response, I reserved my ruling to study the matter. I have studied the matter and will now render my ruling. The point of order raises the issue of whether matters discussed outside the House, and which are unrelated to specific business of the House can be a subject of a point of order. Honourable members, I must hasten to state from the outset that this point of order should not have been raised at all because it relates to an issue that arose outside the House. I want to reiterate what I have said in this House on several occasions that, what transpires outside the House should not be brought to this House, but should remain and be concluded outside the House.”
Dr Matibini said rendering ruling on points of orders that were conducted outside the House was irrelevant.
“In this regard, members should be aware that this House will only entertain a point of order on an issue occurring outside the House if it relates to a specific matter discussed in the House, and amounts to a breach of parliamentary privilege and in contempt of the House. Honourable members, I had occasion to guide on matters discussed outside the House in my ruling on a point of order raised by the then Minister of Youths and Sport, Mr C Kambwili; against Mr C Mweetwa, member of parliament for Choma Central parliamentary constituency. In that matter, I ruled at page 834 as follows: ‘I want to repeat what has been said in this House many times before that matters that occur outside should not be brought to this House, but should remain and be concluded outside the House. I understand that the statements by Honourable Kambwili were made on a live call-in discussion programme on UNZA Radio,” he said.
“This being the case, Honourable Mweetwa had the opportunity to raise his views on Honourable Kambwili’s statements during the programme. The Honourable member decided not to do so. Instead, he raised a point of order in this House, which has led to a contest on facts whose material allegations I was not privy to. Honourable members, this kind of situation presents difficulties to presiding officers to rule on. I, therefore, urge all Honourable members to refrain from drawing the House into discussing matters that take place outside the House because presiding officers are not privy to such discussions. As a result of these points of order, we are compelled to go out to ascertain facts of those discussions which, at any rate, are not relevant to the business of the House. In future, we’ill simply not entertain any point of order, which brings discussions outside the House.”
Dr Matibini guided MPs that the National Assembly had no jurisdiction to determine whether or not a member of parliament had been defamed.
“Honourable members, in this point of order, Honourable Prof Luo asserted that Mr R Kang’ombe made a statement during a programme on Prime Television, where he allegedly maligned her name by linking her to tribalism. What is clear from this point of order is that the statement being referred to was made outside the House during a Prime Television programme. It can, therefore, not be a subject of debate or a point of order in the House. In any event, I take cognizance of the fact that, the subject of tribalism has been discussed at length, both in the House and outside by various political and non-political players in the press, on social media and in public debates. The subject was, therefore, in the public domain and members of parliament and the public at large, were free to comment on the topic,” said Dr Matibini.
“Further, the House has no jurisdiction to determine whether a member has been defamed because the power to dwell into the defamation of individuals is vested in the courts of law. In this regard, any person who alleges that his or her character has been defamed is at liberty to institute court action. Therefore, Honourable members, in line with the guidance and precedents set in the cases cited, I find that Mr R Kang’ombe, was not out of order. As I conclude, I wish to emphasise my guidance to all Honourable members to refrain from drawing the House into discussions occurring outside the House. The House is not an avenue for settling political battles occurring outside the House. Such political battles should be concluded outside the House.”