NATIONAL Dialogue Forum co-vice-chairperson Mary Mulenga was on Monday evening subtly countered by a Forum delegate when she ruled that there was no evidence to prove that finance minister Margaret Mwanakatwe was drunk in one of the meetings.
Civil society activist Guess Nyirenda, a delegate to the NDF, stood on a point of order on Monday morning, asking if Mwanakatwe was in order, on Saturday, to go and attend the Forum’s proceedings while drunk.
NDF chairperson Professor Muyunda Mwanalushi, in response, referred the matter to the Forum’s standing committee.
During a plenary session later in the evening, Mulenga announced to the delegates that she had a memo to read, for which she did.
“Mr Guess Nyirenda raised the point of order two days after the incident happened, which renders the point of order null and void. We had an opportunity to listen to him, that is Mr Nyirenda, and he did not provide evidence on whether she was drunk or sick,” Mulenga read.
“He also mentioned that the member (Mwanakatwe) did not cause any disruption during the proceedings. The committee therefore finds Mrs Mwanakatwe with no case to answer.”
At this point, PF deputy media director Antonio Mwanza stood and suggested that Nyirenda be made to apologise to Mwanakatwe and the Forum’s delegates.
“The damage that comrade Guess Nyirenda has made to the Honourable, particularly us who are in the news, has gone viral. The whole world believes that Honourable Mwanakatwe came here drunk,” said Mwanza, adding that Mwanakatwe was the face of Zambia’s economy.
“We want to demand that Mr Guess Nyirenda must stand in this podium and apologise not only to Honourable Mwanakatwe but to all of us here for [the] unwarranted embarrassment [to] Honourable and the NDF. This is a very serious matter; we want him to apologise.”
But Reverend Chongo Phiri, a representative of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) at the NDF, countered and indicated that it would “really be unfair if Mr Guess Nyirenda is subjected to an apology because I personally saw her (Mwanakatwe).”
“She passed through right here in front of me and I’m a witness to what happened. So, Mr Nyirenda has witnesses; we witnessed that. We witnessed the minister being drunk. Yes, I did witness that,” said Rev Phiri.
Mulenga advised delegates to the NDF against concentrating on debating the issue of Mwanakatwe’s alleged inebriation.
“I don’t think we need to dwell on this issue. I’ll now ask the Ministry of Justice representatives to take us through the Republican Constitution amendment bill 2019,” she indicated.
Home affairs minister Stephen Kampyongo, however, rose and said: “you (Mulenga) have made a ruling and all of us have listened to that ruling.”
“Is the Honourable, who is supposed to be Reverend, in order to just stand in front of all of us and insinuate that what you have ruled here is not actually true? Some of us who come from institutions that are premised on rules are perturbed,” said Kampyongo.
“I don’t think we should proceed in this way. Can we have that cleared, madam chair, so that we have a clear record. And men of God, please we respect you so much; we would want you to be sincere and honest to the nation.”
Mulenga then stamped her authority in the proceedings of the Forum and made a final ruling.
“The committee is stating, in black and white, that they do not find Mrs Margaret with any case because she did not disrupt the meeting; the meeting went on fine. So, this case is closed. Thank you,” stressed Mulenga.
As the delegates debated the issue, Mwanakatwe was tight-lipped and ‘calm’ in her seat.