MPs ‘question’ Lungu

PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu was yesterday roundly heckled as he listed six aspects that constitute Zambia’s national values and principles.

The President, who went to address Parliament on the progress made in 2018, in the application of national values and principles, arrived at Parliament Buildings at 09:30 hours and Speaker Dr Patrick Matibini ushered him into the Chamber at 09:46 hours.

Before proceeding with his address, President Lungu requested the House to stand with him and observe a minute of silence in honour of late Sesheke UPND member of parliament Frank Kufakwandi who died on November 12 last year.

He noted that following the demise of former Mangango UPND member of parliament Naluwa Mwene and Kufakwandi, new members of parliament had since been elected to represent the people of the two constituencies.

“Let me now welcome the new member of parliament for Mangango Constituency Honourable Godwin Putu and the new member of parliament for Sesheke Constituency Honourable Romeo Kangombe. Your election victories, gentlemen, are a clear demonstration of the trust that you earned among the people of Mangango and Sesheke, respectively. That trust, however, comes with the responsibility to deliver on your campaign promises,” President Lungu said.

“So, do not let our people down. Our people are yearning for development; development that is people-centred, development that secures our future, development that does not leave anyone behind.”

President Lungu indicated that it was important to state what Zambia’s national values and principles were.

He named them as morality and ethics, patriotism and national unity, democracy and constitutionalism, human dignity, equity, social justice, equality and non-discrimination, good governance and integrity and sustainable development.

It was his mention of good governance and integrity that set off a chorus of “question, question, question” and other inaudible shouting, from among opposition lawmakers.

President Lungu, however, pretended like nothing had happened and continued reading his speech.

He highlighted the progress made in 2018 under each value and principle, as enshrined in the Constitution.

Under morality and ethics, for instance, the Head of State reported that the country was making strides in promoting such virtues.

“In the areas of gender-based violence, which remains one of the critical moral issues of our time, we have intensified awareness programmes at every level of our society, including our communities, schools, work places and places of worship,” he reported.

“It is my hope that with time, the incidences of gender-based violence will be reduced if not eradicated. I urge our people to desist from engaging in gender-based violence.”

Another area of concern, according to President Lungu, has been “alcohol and substance abuse, especially among our young people.”

This sent part of the House into hilarity, apparently mocking the President.

“To curb alcohol and substance abuse, government, among other measures, undertook sensitisation of traditional and religious leaders where 235 chiefs and 180 religious leaders from all the 10 provinces were sensitised on dangers of alcohol and substance abuse. Two shots, Mr Speaker! I only took two….” President Lungu said, apparently referring to Mazabuka Central UPND member of parliament Gary Nkombo on the “two shots” of whiskey issue.

In overnight parliamentary debates in 2015, Nkombo told the House that he had taken two shots of Whiskey to keep him awake.

He pointed out that the country had an opportunity to use information and communication technologies to advance and propel itself to a higher level of development.

The President lamented, however, that it was of great concern that other Zambians had chosen to use “this versatile tool to commit cybercrimes that include financial malpractices, hate speech, falsehoods and character assassination.”

“I once again implore all our citizens to be wary of the negative aspects of social media and use this medium responsibly. On our part as government, I’m glad to report that we are making progress in promoting responsible use of electronic platforms as well as safeguarding users of these platforms,” he said.

“The process of enacting the cyber security and cybercrimes Bill and the data protection Bill has reached an advanced stage. This will ensure that offenders are brought to book. I urge this august House therefore to support the bills which will be presented during this session of Parliament.”

President Lungu regretted that Zambia was challenged also, on the moral front, by incidences of defilement.

He said defilement was an inhuman act that deprived victims of their right to live dignified lives.

“The scars of being defiled have lasting negative effects. To this regard, government and other stakeholders have taken steps to raise awareness in our communities. Further, government has provided for stiffer penalties to eliminate this vice,” President Lungu underscored, further lamenting about teenage pregnancies in the country.

He added that to further enhance national unity, Zambians needed to engage and communicate “genuinely as a people.”

“We need to embrace the spirit of constructive and progressive dialogue at all levels. As government, we’ll not relent on this! Our citizens must also play their part in promoting national values,” President Lungu said.

Under democracy and constitutionalism, the President claimed that his government would remain committed to promoting the rights of citizens who participated in running the affairs of our country.

“We are equally committed to upholding the supremacy of the Constitution for the wellbeing of all Zambians,” President Lungu said.

“Necessary constitutional reforms are vital in the life of any democratic nation such as ours. Government also remains committed to continue undertaking constitutional reforms in line with the aspirations of the people.”

And President Lungu observed that political violence threatened national unity and democracy.

He indicated further that political violence resulted in injuries and fatalities as well as destruction of property.

“It also robs our people of their right to vote freely. Further, such actions dent the image of our country, which is known as a beacon of peace. I therefore wish to once again condemn all forms of political violence in the strongest terms. We need to promote co-existence and accommodate divergent views,” President Lungu claimed.

“We need to strive to resolve our differences through non-violent means. Let us continue to promote our motto [of] One Zambia, One Nation. Let me remind our citizens that no one is above the law. All perpetrators of political violence should be brought to book regardless of their political affiliation. The Zambia Police Service should therefore deal with all manner of political violence in a professional manner”

As he was reading about the police dealing fairly with perpetrators of political violence, opposition members of parliament shouted ‘question, question, question.’

President Lungu responded that: “There are no questions about these things, Mr Speaker.”

Once he finished reading his speech, President Lungu shook hands with both ruling party and opposition members of parliament and left.

President Lungu also urged media houses to be sensitive to their audience by ensuring that their content was progressive and not destructive.

“They have a major influence on the moral and ethical conduct of our people. I, therefore, wish to implore media houses to take a lead in promoting moral and ethical living among our people, said President Lungu.

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