UPND spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa says it’s political persecution for Parliament to suspend him from the House without hearing him.

And Mweetwa who is also Choma Central UPND member of parliament, says he is equally under pressure in his constituency as a number of aspiring candidates are vying for his seat.

Speaking when he featured on Radio Phoenix ‘Let the people talk’ programme, Friday, Mweetwa said his suspension from Parliament on Thursday was a shocker and that the reason which was given for the same was fictitious.

“Mr Speaker suspended me for one month meaning, I can only return to the House on the same date as yesterday [Thursday], next month. Parliament will dissolve sine die for the dissolution of Parliament somewhere on May 12. So, if I where to return to Parliament, probably it will just be for two days. Legally, I will return to Parliament, but let me take this opportunity to clarify my suspension. I have been receiving a lot of calls, ‘what is it that you have done at Parliament’? Now, this suspension is a shocker,” he said.

Mweetwa claimed that the real reason behind his suspension was that he refused to apologise to Vice-President Inonge Wina over a statement he made against her despite the Speaker persuading him to do so.

He added that it was political persecution for Parliament to suspend him from the House without hearing him.

“The true reason for this suspension is that I refused to apologise to the Vice-President and I refused to apologise even after Mr Speaker tried all he could to persuade me to say ‘just apologise’. I refused to apologise over the statement that I made that ‘the Vice-President on the floor of the House had said the people behind the gassing of the citizens are the opposition’. So, I went to Diamond TV and in an interview, I said ‘those statements by the Vice-President were shallow and shameful. They should not come from a high office at a critical time when the nation needs answers as to what the gassing is all about. Leaders must first take steps before issuing statements. They must authenticate the statements, issues such as these, the country is in a security crisis. There is anxiety all over. People are being killed over gassing then you say the people behind this are the opposition meaning us. The public could take turns to exert vengeance on us’. So, I said this statement should not come from the Vice-President. Then Parliament asked me to apologise and I said I can’t apologise. It’s like asking me to stop breathing,” he argued.

“The one who must apologise is the Vice-President who alleged that we, the opposition, were the ones behind gassing. So, that refusal now culminated into another offence for which Parliament sought to discipline me. And when they wanted to sit to discipline me for refusing to apologise, I dragged them to the courts of law for infringing on my freedom of speech. And their hands were tied. They couldn’t go ahead to punish me for refusing to apologise. In their view I had caused embarrassment and humiliation to the Vice-President and to Mr Speaker. So they had to find a way at all costs to be able to punish me. What did they do? They exhumed an old story of March 2020 to say, you had said this on Prime TV which brought ridicule. How can it become an offence? In fact, in this very issue, they had told me that it was dead. That’s why they have brought such a flimsy issue. This is political persecution under the leadership of Patrick Matibini who was my lecturer of law. They have gone ahead to exert this punishment without hearing me. The rules of natural justice demand that if you are accused you must be heard. I was never heard over this punishment.”

Meanwhile, Mweetwa said he was equally under pressure in his constituency as a number of aspiring candidates were vying for his seat.

He disclosed that some of their members of parliament felt that because they voted against Bill 10, the party should be held to ransom and they should not be removed as MPs.

“Yes, I can tell you because I know them. There are some members of parliament who feel that because they voted against Bill 10 the party must be held at ransom. That they should not be removed, that I was wrong. It is not the UPND that takes members of parliament to Parliament. It’s the voters. Therefore, the party in keeping with democratic tenets like before, left the platform to the ordinary citizens to decide who should be able to go to Parliament. The Constitution demands that you must go through a primary election, but why is it that some people don’t want this? They say ‘I voted against Bill 10’. We need everyone to be subjected to the vulgarise of electioneering. I suspect that honourable Belemu thought that he was going to lose the primary elections. He should have stayed,” he said.

“I was in Mbabala and everyone agreed that my brother made a haste decision. He was not the only one who was under pressure. I am under pressure in Choma. There are six, I am here on this interview talking, they are talking to the voters. And I can see that the ground is hot even for me in Choma but should I run away? So, we are still in a strong position and these defections are ordinary events. This is a minor setback and we have seen these things happen time and again. In 2011, 22 MPs left the PF to join the ruling MMD at the time. The MMD lost and all those who went there lost as well. We have just lost one MP, the other one is a former so we are still in a very strong position.