Governance analyst MacDonald Chipenzi has charged that the decision by Speaker Patrick Matibini to refer Hakainde Hichilema to the Inspector General of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions for possible arrest over the “Speaker is a Cadre’ remark is unconstitutional.
In a statement, Mr Chipenzi who is also former Executive Director at FODEP said the speaker must just develop a thick skin and a tolerant attitude because the path he wants to tread of dragging citizens to the Police IG and DPP is undemocratic and unproductive.
“How many citizens is he going to report to the IG and DPP for investigations and prosecution purely over their comments of dissatisfaction on the conduct of the National Assembly? And how many citizens will also drag him to the IG and DPP for being injured by himself in the discharge of his duties? This move the Speaker has taken will just further erode the respectability of his office,” Mr Chipenzi cautioned.
He said the Speaker’s decision to decide to refer Mr. Hichilema to the Inspector General of Police and also to the Director of Public Prosecution for possible investigations and prosecution respectively is unfortunate and against the spirit and the letter of the constitution.
Below is Mr Chipenzi’s statement
I am amazed to listen to and hear the Speaker sounding injured over citizens comments over his conduct and handling of parliamentary business in the National Assembly.
My considered opinion is that, it is either the Speaker was too emotionally injured and charged or has not read and understood the amended Constitution provision on the rights of citizens to make comments on the decisions, deliberations and statements by the National Assembly when he made his ruling on HH’s remarks.
For the Speaker to decide to refer Hakainde Hichilema to the Inspector General of Police and also to the Director of Public Prosecution for possible investigations and prosecution respectively over his remarks that he (Speaker) was a “PF cadre” is unfortunate and against the spirit and the letter of our constitution.
HH was just expressing his personal dissatisfaction on the Speaker’s handling of parliamentary business and cannot earn him a penalty for exercising his constitutional right as a bona fide citizen of this country.
Under this constitution the Speaker and National Assembly at large are not immune from being criticised or called names by any person over his and its conduct in the House and any move to curtail such comments by citizens is dictatorial and unconstitutional.
Perhaps in his personal capacity, he can lodge in a complaint against HH if HH’s comments bordered on the injury of his personal character and not his official capacity. Anything to charge someone over his/her comments on the proceedings of the National Assembly will be abuse of office and authority on the Speaker’s part.
Therefore, I wish to draw the Speaker to the provisions of Article 88 (2) of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) No. 2 of 2016 which is very instructive on his complaint. It states “A citizen may comment on a deliberation, statement or decision of the National Assembly.”
From this provision, where does the Speaker gets the guts to refer HH’s remarks to the IG and DPP? Being a member of the National Assembly whose decision, statements and deliberations must attract citizens’ comments, the Speaker will be acting outside the constitution to agitate for the punishment of any citizen making comments on the National Assembly deliberations, statements and decisions.
To this end, the speaker must just develop a thick skin and a tolerant attitude because the path he wants to tread of dragging citizens to the IG and DPP is undemocratic and unproductive.
How many citizens is he going to report to the IG and DPP for investigations and prosecution purely over their comments of dissatisfaction on the conduct of the National Assembly? And how many citizens will also drag him to the IG and DPP for being injured by himself in the discharge of his duties? This move the Speaker has taken will just further erode the respectability of his office.
Finally, let me remind the nation and the Speaker that it is very difficult for any Speaker birthed under the current constitution to escape from partisanship innuendos because of the way the constitution is crafted.
Article 82(1) states that a Speaker of the National Assembly shall be elected by members of parliament from a list of names of persons submitted to the National Assembly by—(a) the President; and (b) political parties holding seats in the National Assembly.
This also does not spare the two deputy Speakers who are also under Sub articles (3) and (4) are nominated by a political party or President save that they should not be members of the same political party and of the same gender”
Sub Article (4) explicitly puts “the Members of Parliament shall elect, by secret ballot, the First Deputy Speaker from a list of three names, selected by the political parties represented in the National Assembly.”
So who does not know that the Speaker and his deputies were seconded by the Patriotic Front (PF) and its President, Edgar Chagwa Lungu who happens to be President of the Republic? How does the Speaker get offended when one comments on his partisan inclination? Was he going to be nominated if he was not sympathetic with the PF? The answer is categorical NO.
The medicine to these innuendos is the amendment of this constitution so that political parties are not involved in the nomination of Speakers but leave the job to the MPs to elected aspirants.
Under this constitution, caderism of these men and women nominated as Speakers will not be divorced regardless of the party. As long as you are nominated and seconded by a political party, people will continue to perceive you as a sympathiser of that political party that pushed your name on the ballot. Otherwise, many of us will be reported to the IG and DPP for commenting.
Let the nation judge.