CHOMA Central UPND member of parliament Cornelius Mweetwa on Friday refused to apologize for calling Vice-President Inonge Wina’s statement on gassing “shallow and shameful”, saying telling him to do was like asking him to stop breathing.
On Tuesday, February 25, 2020, Lands Minister Jean Kapata had risen on a point of order and alleged that Mweetwa attacked the Vice-President when he featured on Diamond TV’s Costa programme.
In her point of order, Kapata alleged that Mweetwa attacked Vice-President Wina regarding a statement she made on the floor of the House by describing her as “shallow and shameful” for linking the gas attacks to regime change.
Rendering a ruling today, Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini admonished Mweetwa and asked him to apologize saying he was out of order.
“It is self-evident from the written response tendered by Mr Mweetwa as well as the footage obtained from Diamond Television that indeed, Mr Mweetwa, MP, described the Vice-President as shallow and shameful. The article by the Mast Newspaper and the footage from Diamond Television depicts crystal clear that the MP did in fact say that ‘that was shallow of the Vice-President of the country, shallow and shameful’. I find this statement was Mr Mweetwa’s estimation of Her honour the Vice-President and therefore an attack on her persona based on what she said on the floor of the House. The utterance by Mr Mweetwa MP, also amounted to denigrating her honour the Vice-President on account of her conduct of business during a proceeding of Parliament. This was clearly a violation of rights of Parliament. Further, the description of her Honor the Vice-President as shallow and shameful was demeaning and disrespectful to her as a person and also to the office of Vice-President and Leader of Government Business in the House, both positions that she holds,” Dr Matibini said.
“In view of the foregoing, I find Mr C Mweetwa, MP, to have been out of order, in breach of parliamentary privilege, and in contempt of the House. In view of the foregoing, I have decided to admonish him in accordance to Section 28 (1) (b) of the National Assembly Powers and Privileges Act Cap 12 of the Laws of Zambia. I will now address you Mr C Mweetwa, MP. Mr C Mweetwa MP, your description of her honour the Vice President as “shallow and shameful” amounted to a personal attack on her honour the Vice President. This is because the word “Shallow and Shameful” were deployed to describe Her Honor the Vice President and in view of the position she holds as Vice President of the Republic of Zambia and Leader of Government Business of the House, your description of her in those terms were demeaning and highly disrespectful,” he said.
Dr Matibini warned Mweetwa that similar future misconduct would attract stiffer punishment.
“As a long serving member of this August House, it is most unfortunate that you conducted yourself in a manner you did. And your misconduct has a potential of lowering the integrity and decorum of this House. Your conduct as a Honorable member your conduct should be above reproach both in and outside the House. The House is in this regard extremely displeased with your conduct. I expect that in future, you will abide by the rules of the House and avoid such misconducts. The repeating of such misconduct will definitely attract a stiffer penalty. You may proceed to tender your apology,” Dr Matibini directed.
But Mweetwa said asking him to apologize was like stopping him from breathing.
“Thank you very much Mr Speaker for inviting me to this House. I was last here in March. And thank you Mr Speaker for asking me to come and apologize for a statement I made in reference to the statement made by her honour the Vice-President on what I believed was in furtherance of my enjoyment of my freedom of speech as entrenched in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the Republic of Zambia. Mr Speaker, asking me to apologize is like asking me to stop breathing. I made it abundantly clear to your committee that I…,” Mweetwa said before the Speaker ordered him to sit down.
Dr Matibini then gave Mweetwa another chance to apologize as per procedure of the House saying that he was not the first one to be asked to apologize.
“Honorable member, take a seat. You have been advised of the proceedings and I believe you were approached by the clerk of the National Assembly, and you are not the first one requested to apologize in the circumstances that I have outlined. So, I will still give you the liberty to follow a very well established procedure for tendering an apology. Continue,” Dr Matibini guided.
Mweetwa, however, stuck to his position.
“Mr Speaker, the person who should apologize is the Vice-President for misleading the nation that we the opposition were conducting gassing,” Mweetwa responded.
Dr Matibini asked Mweetwa to take a seat again, asking him; “Is it your position that you have refused to apologize?”
In response, Mweetwa said he could not apologise for exercising his freedom of speech.
“I can’t apologize for enjoying my freedom of speech. This is a reason why we continue in this House, no way. Punish me for what I have done wrong, not for no wrong doing, no,” he said.
Dr Matibini repeated his question: “It’s a very simple question that I have posed to you. Either you apologize or you don’t and then we proceed. We can’t spend the rest of our time on this. Either you accept to apologize or you refuse. It’s as simple. You don’t have to give any explanation.”
Mweetwa then told the Speaker that he had already communicated to management at Parliament the previous day that he was not going to apologize.
“Mr Speaker, I communicated to management yesterday that I can’t apologize for no wrong doing,” said Mweetwa.
Dr Matibini asked again; “So, you have refused?”
Mweetwa responded; “I am not apologizing.”
Dr Matibini placed the refusal on record and proceeded with the business of the House.
“Take a seat. So, for the record, Honorable Mweetwa, member of parliament for Choma Central has refused to apologize to her honor the Vice-President. We will proceed,” said Dr Matibini.