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Friday, July 1, 2022

Is Speaker Mutti ripe for impeachment?

Columns Is Speaker Mutti ripe for impeachment?

By Charles Mundia

On 3rd September 2021, Nelly Butete Kashumba Mutti was unanimously elected as Speaker of the Zambian Parliament, the first woman to hold the role. After her approbation ceremony, she was celebrated by many, loudly so by President Hakainde Hichilema who described her election as a huge achievement. The women’s movement was overjoyed and said her election was “a clear indication that Zambians have accepted women to lead in any position.”

Fast forward, eight months into her Speakership, Speaker Mutti has already demonstrated that her stay in the Speaker’s Chair poses a serious threat to Zambia’s democracy and the much cherished doctrine of Separation of Powers.

Granted, Speaker Mutti was a nominee of President Hakainde Hichilema and the UPND, a party to which she holds membership but conversion and practice dictates that one severs all ties with the nominating party the moment one is sworn in as Speaker, something that Speaker Mutti is failing to do.

The Speaker is the Presiding Officer of the Legislative Assembly and as such she must act with both authority and impartiality, in Speaker Mutti’s case, she is only exercising authority without impartiality.

The Speaker’s role in the House is to maintain order, put questions after debate and conduct divisions. In maintaining order the Speaker interprets and applies the Standing Orders and practice of the House by making rulings and decisions, in Speaker Mutti’s case, she wants to misinterpret Standing Orders, make irrational rulings and cause divisions.

The other key role of the Speaker is that of the mouthpiece for the House which involves conveying Messages, Announcements and Addresses from the House to thePresident. The Speaker is also charged with upholding the rights and privileges of Members and of the House, in Speaker Mutti’s case, she wants to strip members of their rights and privileges even denying them salaries and allowances entitled to them.

If we were in sports, the Speaker is a Referee or an Umpire but in the case of Speaker Mutti, she wants to be a Referee, an Umpire as well as a player.

The latest case in which she ruled on December 7, 2021 that nine Members of Parliament whose election victories were nullified by the High Court should not be attending Parliament business speaks to her failure to respect constitutionalism.

Speaker Mutti, as a Lawyer of many years should have knownthat it has never been the duty of the Speaker to interpret the Constitution. That function remains the preserve of the Judges serving in our Courts of Law.

The issue of the Speaker attempting to usurp powers from the Judiciary to interpret the constitution was well dealt with in the case of Chishimba Kambwili v Attorney General 2019/CCZ/009 in which the Constitutional Court ruled that the then Speaker, Dr. Patrick Matibini did not have the powers to interpret or resolve constitutional problems or matters that were before the Constitutional Court.

The ruling was delivered on February 18, 2020. Now this is a landmark ruling that even a young student in constitutional law is expected to be conversant with.

The actions by Speaker Mutti clearly contravened Article 72(2) h), 73(4) of the Constitution of Zambia and also the Articles 72(h) and 72(4) read together with the 73(4) which make it clear that a parliamentary seat can only be made vacant or dissolved by a court ruling and that a Member of Parliament should continue as an MP pending the determination of the election petition by the courts.

The Nine PF MPs did well to quickly seek judicial interpretation of Speaker Mutti’s ruling when she sent them away from the House.

In a judgement of March 22nd 2022 delivered by Justice Palan Mulonda, the Constitutional Court ruled that Speaker Mutti should not have sent the nine MPs away because they appealed against the High Court’s decision to nullify their election victories and by the operation of the law means that they retained their seats in Parliament until the determination of the appeal by the Constitutional Court.

“We hold that a member of parliament whose election has been nullified by the High Court and appeals to this court, by operation of the law retains the seat in parliament pending the determination of the appeal,” Justice Mulonda read.

Speaker Mutti was therefore careless in her ruling and one can easily deduce that her decision was driven by political interests from the Executive.

Now since she appears relentless in her pursuit to mutilate the constitution and entrench a culture of intolerance and intimidation in Parliament, she refused to acknowledge theruling and maintained that the MPs should join the other 30 MPs who were suspended for 30 days for disrespecting the House in November after they converged at the speaker’s Mace, thereby supposedly disrupting the business of the House.

With everything she has done and caused to be done in the short period she has presided over the affairs of the House, there is a very strong reason to raise concerns over her suitability for the role of Speaker. Her questionable rulings, her strange interpretations of Standing Orders and her general demeanour towards the members on her Right confirms that she could be a woman on a dangerous mission.

Now that Parliament is on recess, deeper reflections on the damage that her continued stay in that office could cause to our democracy must be had. We should even start exploring the possibility of instituting impeachment proceedings against Speaker Mutti. Impeachment motion against the Speaker is fully provided for in Article 83 of the Republican Constitution for violating the constitution.

I am of a strong view that the Speaker must at all times make her rulings based on sound constitutionalism and not allow herself to be used by any invisible hands. The role she plays in the governable system of our nation is very critical and she should not be used as a pawn for revenge politics.

On the other hand, I am beginning to feel that maybe the nation and especially the women’s movement celebrated way too early Speaker Mutti’s election. May the real Nelly please stand up…before she loses her seat?

Charles Mundia is a Political Scientist based in Lusaka

8 COMMENTS

  1. She cant be impeached unless there is an opposition majority in parliament. MPs are robots that work according to orders. They are not free thinking individuals with their own mindset. In the case of impeachment hey will await instructions

  2. Charles Mundia and his Lord Denning legal mind carries the day. Mutti should be defrocked in the interests of democracy!

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  3. This is what happens when such positions are awarded to party cadres based on loyalty rather than merit. She is a well known upnd cadre and she is failing very embarrassingly

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  4. The only solution is to have a Speaker elected by all Zambians. Matabini was pro PF, Mr Nabulyato was MMD and Mutti is Upnd. Just change the Constitution so that the person is answerable to the people.

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  5. Stop abusing women you idyots!!!
    From Mumbi Phiri, to that useless information minister, to Lillian DPP, now to Nelly?
    Baffikala go help yourself some where else, there are a lot of Musician women you can use for jerking off. Respect our leaders even if they don’t respect themselves, respect them.

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