OPPOSITION United Party for National Development (UPND) has challenged Parliament for endorsing Government’s decision to invoke Article 31 of the republican Constitution, saying the decision was ill-conceived.
In an affidavit filed in the Constitutional Court yesterday, UPND secretary-general Stephen Katuta has alleged that the decision is a scheme calculated to disenfranchise the 46 suspended members of Parliament and their respective constituencies from participating in matters of national importance.
He submitted that on Tuesday, Speaker of the National Assembly called to the session a motion to approve by resolution and the proclamation in the absence of the 46 members of Parliament.
Mr Katuka says he is reliably advised and believes that it is unconstitutional for Parliament to convene for purposes of passing a resolution to approve the declaration in the absence of the suspended UPND MPs.
“By reason of the foregoing, I have filed an originating summons to call for the interpretation of Article 31(2) of the Constitution of Zambia and impugn the decision of the Speaker to proceed in the absence of the UPND members of Parliament to approve the declaration,” Mr Katuka said.
He also wants the court to interpret whether in the absence of the 46 suspended MPs, the remaining MPs, who mainly comprise Patriotic Front (PF), can ratify the invocation.
President Lungu last week invoked Article 31, proclaiming that there exists a situation which, if it allowed to continue, may lead to a state of emergency.
“If not, whether this is not a suitable matter for the Constitutional Court to quash any decision, action, measure whatsoever by the Speaker to approve by a resolution, the proclamation by the President of the republic of Zambia as promulgated in gazette notice number 448 of 2017 under statutory instrument number 53 of 2017 and declare that such is or was unconstitutional for being done in contravention of article 31(2) of the Constitution of Zambia,” he said.
This decision by the opposition party comes after Parliament voted unanimously to endorse Government’s decision to invoke Article 31 and subsequent affirmation by Parliament.
The MPs, who excluded the 46 suspended UPND members, debated the matter which was tabled by Vice-President Inonge Wina.
When Mrs Wina tabled the motion, six MPs from the left, including two from the UPND, walked out, prompting Mandevu MP Jean Kapata to rise on a point of order.
However, First Deputy Speaker Catherine Namugala said the members who remained had enough wisdom to debate the motion.
President Lungu invoked Article 31 after a spate of damage to public institutions that included Lusaka City Market.