Mr Speaker sir,
The day you were elected in charge of the National Assembly remains very memorable to us as journalists because we felt on that day we had won a long fought battle. The joy was overflowing and we recall deliberating amongst ourselves how we would address you. We were not sure which title to pick from your long list of accomplishments: Right Honourable Justice Dr Patrick Matibini State Counsel, Speaker of the National Assembly and Member of Parliament for the Republic of Zambia.
Sir, you had accomplished so much in the academia, in your career and most importantly to us, in fighting for media reforms in Zambia. We have no clue how your fellow lawyers and judges perceived you. We are not sure if they held you in such high esteem, but to us as journalists, you were a star lawyer, a press freedom advocate and civil rights activist. We were already shaping our careers in 2002 when you worked with the Zambia Independent Media Association to draft three bills for the National Assembly, these being the Freedom of Information Bill, Independent Broadcasting Authority Bill, and Broadcasting Bill. In 2006, you even published a book titled “The Struggle for Media Law Reforms in Zambia”.
Sir, you ascended to fame as a media freedom lobbyist and lawyer for journalists who were persecuted by previous governments in court during your practising years; how can anyone blame us for celebrating your election as Speaker of the National Assembly?
This Friday October 6, 2017 will mark six years of your reign as Speaker of the National Assembly and Chief Executive Officer of the legislative arm of the Zambian government. And at News Diggers, we are faced with the challenge of writing to you in our capacity as citizens of Zambia with an extra responsibility to inform the population as well as to provide checks to the government; which includes your office, the office of the Chief Justice and the Republican President.
We are ashamed today when younger journalists challenge us to explain why we danced with joy at your appointment. Our explanation is simply that we thought you were the best man, perfectly qualified to take up the most sensitive job in the land. Most sensitive because your House makes the laws which the Executive and the Judiciary must follow. We felt you would be the ideal eyes and ears of the people of Zambia and somehow, you would work with the right people to ensure that the Freedom of Information Bill which you drafted, is enacted under your reign. But we were wrong! In fact, we were very wrong.
Just yesterday, Mr Speaker, the Roan member of parliament Chishimba Kambwili reported to you, through his point of order, that another member of the House, Bowman Lusambo slapped him twice outside the chambers while the Minister of Lands Jean Kapata poured water on him. Almost immediately Sir, Kapata rose on a counter point of order to justify why they beat and poured water on Mr Kambwili. When Monze member of parliament Jack Mwiimbu asked why you went against your own directive and allowed a point of order on another point of order, you shamelessly said the two issues raised were different. Sir, “disgraced” does not beat what you have become.
Honourable Kambwili was asking if the two MPs were in order to behave like thugs at the National Assembly, but Honourable Kapata did not even have a point of order, you had to call her up again so that she could find something sensible to say that could fit as a point of order. Forget the decorum of the House, but where is your integrity Mr Speaker? One of your Honourable MPs was beaten in the presence of witnesses, and you couldn’t even have a ruling on such behavour and you want the issue to die through an investigation. What a shame!
Mr Speaker Sir, you cannot say MPs risk turning the floor of the House into a platform for fist of fury, its already happening. You are the only one who has closed your eyes to reality. Do you want to see blood before you can act? That Bowman Lusambo you now call Honourable is a street fighter. We worked with him when he was Nevers Mumba’s ‘boy’ and we saw the things he did as a “Die Hard MMD” cadre. You may not be aware of this, Sir, but at one point he was on the police wanted list and he jumped off the wall fence of Nevers Mumba’s house to escape when officers went searching. If you don’t stop him now, one day it will be you he will slap, Mr Speaker, when you differ with him – and he has such a huge palm. Ask Muhabi Lungu how he cried after that Lusambo squeezed his hand at the High Court when the two were at loggerheads.
We can see that you have run out of ideas on how to handle the thuggery, pettiness and disorder in the House, that is why yesterday you ordered no more points of order. But for how long will you make such a ruling? How will members debate in order if no one is allowed to raise a point of order? Our hearts are bleeding, Mr Speaker Sir, because of what you have turned out to be; you are not the same Patrick Matibini we loved.
You are the master at law and there is nothing we can share with you about separation of powers that you already don’t know. But we can only remind you that it is your duty and the responsibility of the House that you preside over, to stop the rot in the Executive and the Judiciary has the duty to stand with those whom you treat unjustly in Parliament. You cannot just say, “I am aware of the political challenges that are going on, Its a pity that they are not being resolved elsewhere, away from the House?” Where are the MPs going to resolve their political differences from if you ran away from them? You are a judge Mr Speaker, stand your ground and start spitting justice in the face of disgruntled members of the House, regardless of their political affiliations and government positions.
You may not recall this, but that House you are presiding over has not become divided today. It was divided the day you were elected Speaker. In fact, you were a very unpopular Speaker of the National Assembly because you survived by only one vote – 78 against 77. It took the Patriotic Front some dirty political gimmicks to recruit that one extra vote in order for you to beat then UPND vice president Richard Kapita on that job. We are not saying you were less qualified or unsuitable for the job, but the PF did not have the numbers to smoothly sail you through. The rest of the UPND, MMD and independent members of parliament didn’t want you for political reasons. The same MMD members who gave you a No vote and called you names, are the ones you are struggling to chastise and bring to order in the House. They are the ones you are siding with now because they have ‘crossed’ the floor and followed you at the Right, where there is milk and honey. That is why today they have ignored your flaws and are full of praise for you. We have no issue with them because there is no morality in politics, but you Mr Speaker Sir, are a member of two noble careers – law and journalism – and we cannot watch your free fall from dignity without cautioning you. What has remained admirable about your Sir, is your gentle laughter in the House. That, we love, but nothing else.
How can you, today stand up in the House to rebuke a citizen as defenceless as Antonio Mwanza for publishing “inaccurate information” on Facebook! Not even the official Facebook page for his dwindling political party FDD, but on his personal Facebook page. When did you change, Mr Speaker Sir? What went wrong? Where is the freedom of expression you were helping us achieve? Who are you afraid of? How can we help you? Are you telling this nation that any citizen who publishes false accusations on Facebook about you or any member of the House will be summoned to the Chamber so that they apologise? Sir, people say all sorts of things out here, they say your House is full of criminals, they accuse you of being a PF cadre. Will you summon each one of them to come and prove their allegations? When are you going to debate the budget?
Sir, you are our hero and it breaks our hearts to see you being disgraced in the House like that, your esteem is vanishing faster than dew in the morning. It was disappointing enough that you failed to act as President when the 2016 presidential election was disputed through the court, in accordance with the laws you passed as a House. It was sad enough that you suspended 48 opposition members of parliament, regardless of how that history would dent your reputation. You cannot continue with that phobia for dispensing justice.
Mr Speaker Sir, we are humbly asking you to resign if the waters have become so filthy for your hard earned dignity. Yours is the most political arm of government, it is the home of political bickering. The ruling, the opposition and the independent converge in your House to settle policy and political scores. If you cannot handle that pressure, step aside. If you can’t let go of your pay cheque, change! It is not too late to go back to the Patrick Matibini who took the side of the oppressed in society. A good starting point would be to accept our criticism as constructive, under the freedom of speech agenda, and not bother us with summons like you did to Mr Antonio Mwanza. We thank you Sir, and we beg to move.