By Sunday Chanda
The decision by UPND to instruct its Members of Parliament to boycott President Lungu’s address to the nation yesterday in Parliament was hypocritical and exposed the immaturity deeply embedded in the Opposition Party.
This is the second time they are acting that way. They were censured for their first boycott by the Speaker as first offenders but it seems their political leaders are hellbent on this ruinous strategy.
It is unacceptable that UPND MPs have allowed themselves to be controlled like zombies even when they know too well that they represent constituencies in dire need of development. It is hypocritical for these MPs to claim tgey do not recognise the Republican President and yet they swore an Oath as MP to the same President they claim not to recognise. In our Constitution the President officially opens Parliament for it to function and without him Parliament cannot open. Its because President Lungu opened Parliament that all MPs (including UPND MPs), the Speaker and his deputies are in Parliament transacting the business of the House.
UPND must desire to grow their politics by learning from the USA. In the US Congress, despite huge differences and alleged election hacking, opposition Democratic party Senators and Congressmen did NOT boycott President’s Trump’s State of the Nation Address in Congress last week. That’s being principled and mature!
I wish to challenge the UPND to do the following if they refuse to recognize the President is to:
1. RESIGN on principle en masse from parliament and wait for 2021 elections
2. BOYCOTT all sittings of parliament pending resolution of their petition in court
3. STOP asking Her Honour the Vice President Mrs. Inonge Mutukwa Wina questions in Parliament because she was elected on the same ticket as President Edgar Lungu.
Further, Zambians who elected President Lungu and his running mate should ask Her Honour the Vice President Mrs Wina must refuse to take questions from the UPND because clearly they do not recognise her and the President.
Since they are unlikely to do the above, and UPND MPs being second offenders, the Speaker and the Parliamentary Committee on Privileges should review this issue critically and consider what disciplinary measures to take in line with the rules of the House!
These MPs cannot even claim that they succumbed to their Party’s intimidation because they know too well that the law is on their side.
Article 60 (2) (b) of the Constitution provides that:
“A political party shall not—
(b) engage in or encourage violence or intimidate its members, supporters, opponents or other persons.”
That notice by UPND to its MPs had a penal notice that whoever disregarded the directive would be disciplined. Clearly that amounted to intimidation on the side of the Party which the MPs should have disregarded. On this score I commend Hon Keith Mukata for disregarding that unconstitutional and childish directive. Its unacceptable for elected adults to be intimidated in the manner their leader Hakainde Hichilema does it.
If the UPND wishes to live up to its threats and disciplines Hon Mukata, he can challenge such action by the party as being unconstitutional. That is to say it violates Article 60 (2) (b) above.
Even if the Party was to even go the extent of expelling such a member, the Constitution would still offer the victimized MP protection.
Article 72 (2) (e) says:
“The office of Member of Parliament becomes vacant if the member—
(e) is expelled from the political party which sponsored the member for election to the National Assembly.
And in terms of Article 72 (5):
“Where a Member of Parliament is expelled as provided in clause (2) (e), the member shall not lose the seat until the expulsion is confirmed by a court, except that where the member does not challenge the expulsion in court and the period prescribed for challenge lapses, the member shall vacate the seat in the National Assembly.”
Article 72 (6):
“Where a court determines that an expulsion of a member, as provided in clause (2) (e), was not justified, there shall be no byelection for that seat and the member shall opt to—
(a) remain a member of the political party and retain the seat; or
(b) resign from the political party and retain the seat as an independent member.”
Since the expulsion imagined above would have arisen from an unconstitutional so-called discipline of its members, the same cannot be found justifiable by the courts and the courts will seek to uphold the expelled member’s rights.
In short, more UPND MPs could have disregarded that unconstitutional directive if they so wished and UPND would not have done anything meaningful to them.