THE Lusaka High Court has set July 6 this year as the date for ruling on whether or not to grant a judicial review to 46 United Party for National Development (UPND) parliamentarians who are challenging Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini’s decision to suspend them.
And the State has told the court that Dr Matibini was on firm ground to suspend the 46 legislators. In an affidavit filed to oppose the summons for leave to apply for judicial review, National Assembly acting deputy clerk Cecilia Sikatele says the decision to suspend the applicants for 30 days is supported by law.
She says the conduct of the applicants was contemptuous because by boycotting the state of the nation address by President Lungu, they committed intentional disrespect to the head of State.
Ms Sikatele said the Speaker is empowered to discipline members of the National Assembly.
“We wish to state that following the boycott of the official opening of the National Assembly on 30th September, 2016, the Speaker in his ruling warned that future boycotts would be met with much stiffer penalty.
“In any event, the 54 UPND MPs boycotted the official opening of the National Assembly on 30th September, 2016, and were subsequently reprimanded. In the apology which was tendered by Mr G Nkombo, he admitted expressly that he was a prime mover of the boycott,” she submitted.
On June 13 this year, Dr Matibini suspended the UPND parliamentarians for 30 days during which they will not be paid salaries or allowances.
But the MPs have sought leave to apply for judicial review to challenge their suspension.
Nalikwanda MP Geoffrey Lungwangwa and 45 others are now seeking a declaration that the Speaker’s decision was illegal as they were just exercising their freedom of expression as guaranteed in the Constitution.
Meanwhile, SPEAKER of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini has lifted the suspension of United Party for National Development (UPND) member of Parliament (MP) Rasford Bulaya after establishing that the lawmaker did not boycott President Lungu’s state of the nation address to Parliament.
This brings to two the number of MPs that have escaped the one-month suspension slapped on UPND parliamentarians. The speaker had initially suspended 48 MPs but he last week withdrew the suspension of Namwala’s Moono Lubezhi because she had been excused.
Dr Matibini has, however, reprimanded Mr Bulaya, the Mpongwe lawmaker, for being absent without permission.
Making a ruling yesterday, Dr Matibini said Mr Bulaya complained to his office that he was among the 47 suspended MPs when he was attending a court case at Mpongwe Magistrates Court on the material day where he was a witness in a case of “The People versus Gabriel Namulambe”.
Dr Matibini said Mr Bulaya did exculpate himself in response to a charge letter where he explained his absence.
“Unless it is practically impossible, a member must seek prior permission from the Speaker or the chief whip to stay away from the sittings. Review of the records show that Mr Bulaya responded to the charge letter addressed to all UPND MPs to exculpate themselves,” Dr Matibini said.