FIRST deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Catherine Namugala yesterday said while it is true that the UPND complied with constitutional provisions in moving an impeachment motion against President Edgar Lungu, the Constitution does not give a timeframe when such a motion can be debated.
And Namugala branded as unsustainable Bwana Mkubwa PF member of parliament Dr Jonas Chanda’s point of order of ‘inciting’ the Ministry of Home Affairs to consider de-registering the UPND on account that the opposition party is propagating hatred and slander, thereby raising tension in the country.
Mazabuka Central UPND member of parliament, backed by other 60 members of parliament, would move an impeachment motion against President Lungu, alleging that the Head of State had abrogated the Constitution on different occasions.
The touchy motion was proposed to come up for debate yesterday afternoon but it was conspicuously missing on the day’s Order Paper, prompting leader of the opposition in the House Jack Mwiimbu to rise on a point of order.
“Madam Speaker, I rise on a very serious point of order arising from the Constitution of Zambia, Standing Orders and the privileges Act pertaining to the members of parliament. Madam Speaker, you may recall that on Thursday last week Honourable Gary Nkombo raised a motion under Standing Order Number 37 and the motion was duly seconded by Honourable [Chishimba] Kambwili, a member of the PF. Madam Speaker, we are all aware that when a member of this House decides to raise a motion under the Standing Orders I have just referred to, he is required to give three days notice and that three days notice was complied with,” Mwiimbu, who is Monze Central UPND member of parliament, said.
“Madam Speaker, the notice of motion was anchored on Article 108 of the Constitution of Zambia, relating to the impeachment of the President. Madam Speaker, I do recall that I swore before you to defend the Constitution of Zambia and my colleague Honourable Gary Nkombo, seconded by Honourable Kambwili, relied on the provision of the Constitution of Zambia which we passed here on the floor of this House in 2015 and assented to in 2016. Madam Speaker, to date we have not been told by your office when this motion (impeachment of President Lungu) is going to be debated on the floor of this House as per the Constitution and the Standing Orders of Parliament.”
He alerted Namugala that some members of the executive had been issuing statements in the media “to say that this motion will not be accepted by your office”.
“They have debated the motion in the various public media. The motion which is before you, before you even respond to us. As if that is not enough, today we have hordes of PF…. The members of parliament, in particular my brother here Honourable Gary Nkombo, is being threatened. His life is in danger by the thugs who are outside there! Madam Speaker, we are in this House to exercise our rights as per Constitution – there is nothing irregular we have done through this motion. Any civilised society demands that you follow what the Constitution says and that’s what we have done. Madam Speaker, we would like you to tell us whether we are out of order ourselves by raising a procedural motion as per the Constitution that guides this House on impeachment,” said Mwiimbu.
“What wrong have we done? What wrong has he (Nkombo) done for him to be threatened? Right now, the atmosphere in this House is not conducive because of what is happening outside. If it was UPND, madam Speaker, there would have been bloodshed outside there! I would like your guidance on this matter whether we are wrong to have raised this matter.”
And in her ruling, Namugala noted that Mwiimbu’s point of order was raising “three very important issues”.
“1. Whether or not indeed the motion to impeach the President is provided for in the Constitution, 2. Whether or not the process so far has complied with our own rules, the Standing Orders. The third point is the issue of threats. The Honourable member for Monze Central has raised an issue of threats; that there are people out there who are threatening the Honourable member for Mazabuka Central. In my response to that point of order, I wish to respond as follows: First, indeed if there are any people out there and if they are within the precincts of Parliament and threatening any one of the Honourable members here, they must be removed immediately. Honourable members of this House must not be threatened by anyone within the precincts of this Parliament. As I have indicated, if they are there, they must be removed. The second point that I wish to respond to is whether or not impeachment motion is provided for and yes indeed, under Article 108 of our own Constitution, it is provided as follows: ‘a member of parliament supported by at least one third of the members of parliament may move a motion for impeachment of the President alleging that the President has committed the following: a. violation of a provision of this Constitution or other law. b. A crime under international law or c. gross misconduct. I have only read Article 108 sub-Article one and I have read A, B and C,” Namugala ruled.
She added that in terms of whether or not the process or the motion that was being proposed had complied with the constitutional provisions, it had done so.
“So, it is in compliance with the provisions of our own Constitution. However, this Constitution does not give a timeframe within which an impeachment motion must be tabled on the floor of this House. It does not give a timeframe within which a motion such as this one should be tabled on the floor of this House. Standing Order Number 37 states ‘a member may introduce a private member’s motion at anytime.’ 37(2) states that ‘a member who wishes to introduce a motion, under paragraph one, shall deliver to the clerk’s office a fairly type-written notice signed by the member and the seconder of the motion. The motion must also clearly indicate in the notice the date proposed for introducing the motion in the House. The day proposed for introducing a motion shall not be less than three days ahead and where notice is given on Friday, not less than four days ahead, provided that the Speaker may, by leave of the House, exempt a motion from this provision,” Namugala said.
She further noted that a private member’s motion shall be governed by the rules of admissibility.
“Now, Honourable members the point of order is to the effect that the Honourable member for Mazabuka Central has complied with all the provisions. Yes, it is true that the constitutional provisions, indeed, have been complied with but the Constitution does not give a timeframe. Number two, the Standing Orders, as provided, do not compel the Speaker to table the motion within three days. Therefore, in response to this point of order the response of the Chair is that there is nothing irregular, there is nothing illegal that has happened or that the Speaker’s office has done to undermine the motion. The point of order, therefore, is inadmissible, Honourable member for Monze Central. I hope, Honourable members of this House this clarifies the issue of the impeachment motion which, indeed as the Honourable member for Monze Central has indicated, has created some tension in the House,” Namugala explained.
Meanwhile, minutes after Namugala had delivered a ruling in the impeachment matter, Dr Chanda stood on a point of order, wondering whether or not home affairs minister Stephen Kampyongo was in order to remain quiet instead of de-registering the ‘antagonistic’ UPND.
“Zambia has been known to be a very peaceful country…But we’ve seen a trend in Zambia since the 2016 elections that UPND basically have refused to recognise the election of His Excellency the President and have gone ahead to propagate a lot of hate, slander [and] raising tension in the country. My point of order [is that] is the Minister of Home Affairs in order to remain quiet and not consider deregistering UPND for the sake of public interest?” asked Dr Chanda.
In her ruling, Namugala said: “Honourable member for Bwana Mkubwa, that point of order cannot be sustained because it has nothing to do with the rules of this House and it’s certainly outside the mandate of the presiding officer in this House.”