CHIENGI Independent member of parliament Given Katuta on Thursday accused Transport and Communications Minister Frank Tayali of demeaning her in Parliament by allegedly referring to her question as unreasonable.

This was after Tayali’s response to another member of parliament’s question that; “now that was a reasonable question”.

Earlier, Katuta asked the Transport and Communications Minister when he would take an SI to Parliament for the removal of heavy trucks from the roads and also improve staffing levels at RTSA as a way of addressing the increasing number of road traffic accidents.

“Listening to the Minister, I think the whole country should be shocked. The responses, Madam Speaker, we are talking about life and death here. Even if it’s one soul that is lost, we expect a good response from the government or the executive. Madam Speaker, the Minister is talking about mounting cameras. Where? In Chiengi? Accidents have been happening in Mkushi and Kapiri Mposhi, there are no cameras, not even SOS. We came up with an SI because of the accidents that were happening in the previous session. Now, Madam Speaker, the road is bad, yes. I’m expecting the minister to say we are going to bring an SI to stop the heavy vehicles from going to the rail line so that we save our roads. This is what I’m expecting to hear, Madam Speaker,” she said.

“Madam Speaker, my question is, how will RTSA be able to do road patrols when they don’t have the equipment, they don’t have the staff members, they are understaffed? Since Zindaba Soko left, it’s like he went with members of staff. I know the current CEO is working. Madam Speaker, we need to support the current CEO of RTSA with these I have mentioned. The question is, when is this Minister going to bring an SI to remove these heavy trucks from our roads and also improve the staffing of RTSA?”

In response, Tayali said he had already adequately addressed a number of concerns raised by Katuta, but added that government was already putting in place immediate measures to address accidents.

“I have adequately addressed a number of concerns that the honourable member has raised. When she talks for instance about heavy trucks which break down and block the road, I already did allude in my statement to a tow truck having been procured. It being stationed in Central Province for quick response to such scenarios. She talks about SIs to be brought to this House so that heavy goods can be moved onto the rail. If the honourable member pays particular attention to debates which go on in this House, she will know that these are long term measures which the new dawn administration has already pronounced itself on. But we have an immediate danger to the continued loss of life and we are talking about immediate measures and this is what we are doing. All those factors about increasing staffing levels in RTSA, these are things we are looking into,” he responded.

“When you talk about lives, we are all Zambians. When we lose people we lose them together, we don’t lose them as UPND, as PF. And therefore please be reasonable. In your assessment of these things we are dealing with, there were monies in the previous administration that were taken for instance, purportedly to rail rehabilitation. Rail rehabilitation US$120 million was supposedly put in rail. People have continued dying. We have not seen any improvement in rail infrastructure. This new dawn administration is walking the talk and right now talk is cheap. We want to walk the talk to show to the Zambian people that there can be a leadership that can be true to the people’s concerns.”

And when Luena UPND member of parliament Mubita Anakoka asked if the ministry had intentions of lifting the SI that banned night travel, Tayali said “now that was a reasonable question”.

“Thank you very much, Madam Speaker, now that was a reasonable question. I want to agree with the honourable member that being an information-based kind of leadership, this new dawn administration is looking at the real factors that have been causing these accidents. And indeed like the honourable member says, so far we have not gotten statistical data that shows that banning buses from moving at night has actually helped the situation. If anything the converse is true to have happened. We are carefully looking at that situation and that when the time is appropriate and it is right, we may indeed need to lift that ban if at all it will help for driver behaviour to be maintained in a particular responsible manner,” said Tayali.

This, however, prompted a point of order from Katuta.

“Thank you, Madam Speaker, for allowing me to raise a point of order. Madam Speaker, this point of order is being raised according to the response that was given by the Minister. After I had asked a question, his response when another member asked a question was ‘that’s now a reasonable question’. Madam Speaker, from the looks of things, this place now is a place of demeaning women by ministers. Initially again when I asked a question I was told my question was unreasonable,” said Katuta.

“According to standing order number 65, 2(e), Madam Speaker, may I know as to why the Minister of Transport and Communication called my question as an unreasonable question when we are talking about life and death when in my question I did not demean his government or demean him? I seek your serious ruling, Madam Speaker.”

But in her ruling, Speaker of the National Assembly Nelly Mutti said the word unreasonable was not offensive in any way.

“Honourable member for Chiengi, from the context that the honourable minister was using, I find no injury or demeaning act that has been occasioned upon you by the honourable minister using the word unreasonable. It’s not offensive according to what I was listening to, it’s not offensive in any way. Reasonable and unreasonable, maybe because I’m a lawyer because we use that a lot of times. Reasonable or unreasonable in the context that it was used, I do not find it demeaning to any honourable member. Let’s make progress,” ruled Speaker Mutti.