The National Assembly has taken the unprecedented step of suspending 17 Members of Parliament (MPs) from the opposition parties for a period of 30 days. The suspension, effective immediately, follows an alleged incident of misconduct that took place last week during a parliamentary session.
Speaker of the National Assembly, Nelly Mutti, announced the suspension, which she described as a response to “unparliamentary behavior” and a breach of the house’s decorum and integrity. The lawmakers’ actions were widely seen as a protest against the Speaker for purportedly denying them an opportunity to speak.
The incident that led to this suspension occurred after Kamfinsa MP Christopher Kang’ombe failed to adhere to the guidance provided by the Speaker on a point of order he had raised. The resulting protest disrupted the proceedings of the House.
Mutti, in her announcement, stressed that the suspension was not without legal basis. She cited the National Assembly Act, which provides clear guidelines regarding the conduct of individuals within the Assembly’s precincts during its sittings. According to the Act, those causing obstructions or disturbances within the Assembly Chamber or interrupting its proceedings could face penalties, including fines or imprisonment.
She further noted that defying the rulings or directions of a presiding officer, as outlined in the National Assembly’s Standing Orders, constituted an act of gross disorderly conduct.
The suspension applies to 17 MPs, including notable figures such as Brian Mundubile, the Leader of the Opposition in the House, and other members such as Binwell Mpundu, Munir Zulu, and Emmanuel Banda. Those suspended will not receive their salaries during this period, are barred from participating in parliamentary activities, and cannot visit the National Assembly Motel.
Mutti emphasized that lawlessness should not be confused with freedom of expression, and deliberately defying the Speaker or any presiding officer amounted to an assault on Zambia’s constitutional democracy.
The suspension period for most MPs is from Tuesday, November 7, to Wednesday, December 6, 2023. However, for Emmanuel Banda, the suspension will commence once his ongoing 14-day suspension concludes, starting from Saturday, November 25, to Sunday, December 26, 2023.
This development comes in the midst of a growing political climate, with the Clerk of the National Assembly receiving a petition from 58 Opposition MPs requesting the impeachment of Speaker Nelly Mutti for alleged breaches of the Constitution and inadequate management of parliamentary affairs. The situation in the National Assembly remains tense as both sides grapple with the aftermath of these events.