CHOMA Central UPND member of parliament Cornelius Mweetwa has apologized to Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini for disrespecting him.
And Dr Matibini says he will not tolerate gross indiscipline and misconduct from any member of parliament in the House.
Meanwhile, Dr Matibini has referred the matter in which Mweetwa refused to apologize to Vice-President Inonge Wina last week to the committee on Privileges, Absences, and Support Services for further consideration.
On February 28, 2020, Nakonde PF member of parliament Yizukanji Siwanzi raised a point of order asking the Speaker on whether or not Mweetwa was in order to walk out of the House while he was giving guidance.
Dr Matibini had referred the matter to the Committee on Privileges, Absences and Support Services for consideration.
He said when the committee asked Mweetwa to exculpate himself, he was uncooperative.
“When asked to exculpate himself, Mr Mweetwa asserted that he was unaware of any law, procedure or tradition precluding a member of parliament from lapsing his or her follow up question. He further indicated that the point of order was not about the walk out or disorder. He further submitted that asking questions in the House was not just a mandate of one person but every other member in the House, and that no one should be punished for lapsing their own question. Further, when asked whether he could not have waited for the Speaker’s guidance in the House and then conclude his question or to have excused himself before leaving the House as a matter of courtesy, Mr Mweetwa submitted that in the substantive Point of Order raised against him, there was no complaint about his behaviour towards the Speaker and that he did not see it prudent to discuss the Speaker before the committee,” Dr Matibini said.
“He further indicated that if there was need, another Point of Order could be raised against him concerning his conduct towards the Speaker. The committee further inquired from Mr Mweetwa whether he was remorseful for having walked out in the manner he did. In his response, Mr Mweetwa reiterated that the Point of Order was about him lapsing the question and that it had nothing to do with the walking out. He added that there was no way he could be remorseful over something he did not do and that was not before the committee.”
Speaker Matibini said the committee then unanimously resolved that Mweetwa be given a formal warning for his conduct.
“The committee observed that Mr Mweetwa was uncooperative because he took a legalistic approach instead of simply responding to questions posed to him and that Mr Mweetwa saw nothing wrong with his conduct and was not remorseful for walking out of the House while he was on the floor. And when the Speaker requested him to resume his seat as he sought to restore the House to order. In view of the forgoing, the committee unanimously resolved that Mr Mweetwa’s conduct of walking out of the House before he concluded his follow-up question and before Mr Speaker concluded restoring the House to order, amounted to a breach of a decorum and dignity of the House as well as intentional disrespect to the Speaker and to the House as a whole. This was because the established practice of the House is that a member should not leave the House immediately after his/her debate. Further, as a matter of decorum, a member who asks a question has to resume his/her seat and is only permitted to leave after his/her question is responded to. As regards to the punishment to be meted out, the committee recommended that Mr Mweetwa should be issued with a formal warning,” Speaker Matibini said.
The Speaker, however, disagreed with the committee’s resolve to formally warn Mweetwa and said he needed a much stiffer punishment.
“I am in agreement with the findings of the committee that Mr Mweetwa’s conduct breached the decorum and dignity of this House, and that he showed intentional disrespect to my office and to the House as a whole. However, I am not in agreement with the committee on the recommendation that Mr Mweetwa should be formally warned, instead, I am of a considered view that Mr Mweetwa deserves a stiffer penalty for the following reasons; he is not a first offender; was not remorseful about his conduct. In view of the forgoing, I am of a considered view that the punishment recommended by the committee to give him a formal warning is not commensurate with Mr Mweetwa’s breach. Therefore, I have instead decided to reprimand Mr Mweetwa,” Dr Matibini said.
And Dr Matibini ordered Mweetwa to apologize for his misconduct before the House.
“Your conduct of walking out of the House while you were on the floor and I was addressing the House to restore order amounted to intentional disrespect of my office and to the House as a whole. The House is extremely displeased with your conduct. I wish to state here that I will not tolerate gross indiscipline and misconduct from any member of this House. The honor, decorum and dignity of the House must be protected at all times,” Dr Matibini ordered.
In his apology, Mweetwa regretted his actions and assured the House that he would not repeat his mistake.
“Mr Speaker, I Cornelius Mweetwa, in my personal capacity and in my capacity as member of parliament for Choma Central parliamentary constituency, do unreservedly apologize to this August House and to you Mr Speaker for walking out of the House while I was on the floor and while the Honorable Mr Speaker was addressing the House with a view of restoring order to enable me ask a question. This conduct Mr Speaker was in contravention of the rules of this House. Sir, having reflected on my conduct, which amounts to a breach of parliamentary privileges and contempt of the House, I wish to assure you sir and this August House that from now on, I shall desist from such misconduct Mr Speaker,” said Mweetwa.
Meanwhile, Dr Matibini referred the matter in which Mweetwa refused to apologize to Vice-President Wina for calling her statement shallow and shameful to the same committee.