In 2019, the Members of Parliament sat for a total of 106 days. The business transacted included the consideration of 441 Questions for Oral and Written Answer, fifty-six (56) Ministerial Statements and nine (09) Private Members’ Motions.

On 15th March, 2019, the Republican President, Mr Edgar Lungu, reminded Members of the Zambian Parliament on the expectations of the people, through his State of the Nation Address to Parliament: “Our people are yearning for development. Development which is people-centred. Development that secures our future. Development which does not leave anyone behind. We should, therefore, use this privilege of service to improve the lives of the people.”

The President of the Republic of Zambia is mandated by Article 9(2) of the Constitution of Zambia to present to Parliament a report on the Progress Made in the Application of National Values and Principles.

During his address, the President reminded the Parliament of the National Values and Principles contained in Part II of the Constitution of Zambia, which include:

  1. morality and ethics;
  2. patriotism and national unity;
  3. democracy and constitutionalism;
  4. human dignity, equity, social justice, equality and non-discrimination;
  5. good governance and integrity; and
  6. sustainable development.

The President emphasised that a nation could only accomplish great things when it was anchored on firm values and principles by quoting the words of one of the greatest economists, John Maynard Keynes, who once said:

“People are moved to action by what they believe.”

The President informed Parliament that a framework for monitoring progress had been developed. He stated the following:

“I am glad to inform this august House that this framework has been developed. The framework also provides a co-ordination mechanism among various institutions to facilitate comprehensive reporting and tracking of progress on the application of the National Values and Principles.”

On alcohol and substance abuse among the youths, President Lungu said that his government would continue sensitisation programmes in partnership with corporate institutions and traditional and religious leaders.

“To curb alcohol and substance abuse, government, among other measures, undertook sensitisation of traditional and religious leaders where 235 chiefs and 180 religious leaders from all the ten provinces were sensitised on the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse.  This was with the view to strengthening their role as agents of change.  This programme will continue because traditional and religious leaders play a cardinal role in shaping the morals of our society,” he said. “Further, government undertook 2,310 public awareness programmes in learning institutions, work places and community-based structures throughout the country.  These programmes, which are also being supported by corporate entities, will continue.”

And President Lungu urged Zambians to always speak well of their country to outsiders by stating that:

“Patriotism demands that we always speak well of our country. Let us be the best ambassadors of our motherland at home and abroad. Let us be proud of our land, our identity and our home. We may not appreciate how it feels to have no sense of belonging.”

President Lungu also called for the spirit of constructive dialogue.

“To further enhance national unity, we need to engage and communicate genuinely as a people. We need to embrace a spirit of constructive and progressive dialogue at all levels,” he said.

The Head of State said that his leadership had set national unity at the centre of development through the commemoration of national days.

“In an effort to foster national unity, identity and sovereignty, government has continued to facilitate the commemoration of National Days of historic importance. These include Independence Day, Africa Freedom Day and National Day of Prayer, Fasting, Repentance and Reconciliation,” President Lungu said.

He said he was happy with the strides made towards promoting national values and principles as evidenced by the increase in the reported cases of gender-based violence and cited the establishment of fast track courts that were dealing with gender-based violence.

“To support victims and expeditiously dispose of gender-based violence cases, government has continued establishing one-stop centres and user-friendly fast-track courts. In 2017, we only had two fast track courts situated in Lusaka and Kabwe. At the end of 2018, four more courts were established and are operational in Chipata, Ndola, Livingstone and Mongu,” President Lungu said.

On the media, the Head of State advised journalists to provide progressive content to their audiences.

“I wish to draw the attention of this August house to the media. The media has a powerful role to play in building our nation which goes beyond informing, educating and entertaining.  They have a major influence on the moral and ethical conduct of our people.  I, therefore, wish to implore media houses to take a lead in promoting moral and ethical living among our people. They should be sensitive to their audience and ensure that their content is progressive and not destructive,” said President Lungu.

His Excellency the President came back and officially opened the Fourth Session of the Twelfth National Assembly on 13th September, 2019.

President Lungu’s Official Opening Address was premised on the theme, “Accelerating Sustainable Development for a Better Zambia Amidst the Impact of Climate Change.” Why did the President choose to anchor his address around this theme?

“Fellow citizens, our country is facing a very serious problem. We have a situation, which we cannot run away from. It is over a decade ago that we all heard of climate change, even in this Parliament. We all heard the term ‘El Niño and the El Niño effects’ that started causing devastating effects around the world through changes in the climatic conditions. These were signs and symptoms of climate change. Did we, as a country prepare for this adequately? Did successive governments prepare adequately for the people of Zambia to face this situation? Did we do enough to put in place early warning systems? Maybe not!”

The President further added: “It is for this reason that my government has not been spared by the adverse effects of climate change. As I fly within the country, I see the drought-stricken areas on one side and the flooded areas on the other. I have seen how climate change can create varying conditions with negative effects within one country. I have further seen small businesses such as makeshift stalls, locally know as Tu-Ntembas, shutting down as they fail to cope with business due to load shedding. How can a bakery owner run a business if in their manufacturing process power is turned off and at the same time water runs out? I see mothers and children in compounds walking long distances in search for water and queuing for it in the few places it is found.”

President Lungu directed the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and Ministry of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection to take the lead in ensuring that the country’s water sources and the land adjacent to these areas were not adulterated by corporate entities or individuals in the name of development.

On the economy, the President admitted that it was facing some serious headwinds. He, however, expressed his government’s optimism of the country’s ability to overcome the challenges, irrespective of the effects of the world phenomenon.

To transform Zambia into a regional transport hub by 2028, the President announced that the government had developed the 2019 National Transport Policy, which provides for intermodal transport systems comprising road, air, rail, water and pipeline. The policy also provides for rural transport development as well as greater use of information and communication technologies in the transport systems.

The Republican President concluded his address the same way he began it by talking about the most topical issue globally at the moment, which is climate change. He quoted Article 43(1) (c) which states that “a citizen shall protect and conserve the environment and utilise natural resources in a sustainable manner.”

To the masses he said: “We must all, therefore, take necessary steps to contribute to creating a climate resilient economy. This is not for government alone. We are in this together. Individuals and communities, civil society and faith-based organisations and the corporate world. Let us think sustainable development; let us think environment; let us think climate change. More importantly, let us act for a better Zambia now!”

To the Members of Parliament, the President had these final remarks:

“The ability to achieve is in this house and, indeed, outside. Alone, we can do so little; together we can do so much.” These are words of Hellen Keller, an author, political activist, lecturer, and the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree. If a person both deaf and blind can believe in the spirit of team work, and advocate for it, how much, and how many more persons, with that kind of positive mentality can achieve greater heights for our nation?

Working together, the Members of Parliament debated thirty(39) Motions to adopt various Reports of Standing and Select Committees, while eighty-five Annual Reports of Government and Quasi-Government institutions were Tabled. The House saw the consideration of Bill 10 being deferred to 2020. The House also approved Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure No.1 of 2019 and No. 2 of 2019 and passed the 2020 National Budget.

The Minister of Finance, Dr. Bwalya K.E. Ng’andu, in his maiden budget presentation informed the nation that the 2020 Budget would continue to propagate the objectives of the Seventh National Development Plan and austerity measures as well as address key reform areas in the Economic Stabilisation and Growth Programme. In the face of the catalogued challenges that the country is faced with, The 2020 National Budget aims to stimulate the domestic economy. That is why it was appropriately themed: “Focusing National Priorities towards Stimulating the Domestic Economy.” The aim of the budget is to respond to the challenges being faced by the country, as highlighted by the President in his official opening address of the session. Among others, the key challenges of limited fiscal space and the devastating impact of climate change. According to Dr Ng’andu, in this context, the President called upon every citizen to work together, as a people, to achieve economic stability, sustainable growth and development, within the spirit of “doing more with less”.

The Minister indicated that in an attempt to enhance domestic revenue mobilisation, a number of measures would be implemented in the medium term such as: continued modernisation and automation of revenue collection processes and provision of Government services; continued roll out of electronic fiscal devices; development of a national policy on avoidance of double taxation; accelerating the implementation of land titling and revaluation of properties; and adjusting fees and fines to cost-reflective levels.

During the sitting, a number of Ministerial Statements were presented on the Floor of the House. The Minister of Agriculture, Mr Katambo, briefed the Parliament on the maize supply and mealie meal prices situation countrywide. The Minister stated that it was very clear that the country could survive until the next harvest season provided that illegal exports or smuggling, which was a major threat to our national food security, was controlled. He assured the nation that the Government was committed to ensuring food and nutrition security for the nation and would continue to distribute food to areas that were facing severe shortages.

With regards to the electricity situation in Zambia, the Minister of Energy, Mr Nkuwa, told the House that the poor rain season experienced in both the Zambezi and Kafue basins had affected the major power plants on the Zambezi and Kafue rivers negatively. The Members of Parliament were informed that with the prevailing and forecasted hydrological conditions, load management was implemented on 1st June, 2019 with an initial duration of four hours.

The Minister of Energy further highlighted the following mitigation measures to accelerate the implementation of following generation projects which will be brought into service as follows:

  1. Lusiwasi Upper, 15 MW Hydro Power Project by Quarter, 4, 2019 at 88.2 per cent Completion;
  2. Kafue Gorge Lower, 750 MW HPP by Quarter 4, 2020 at 80 per cent completion;
  3.  Lusiwasi Lower, 86 MW by Quarter 3, 2023. It is a green field project not reached financial closure;
  4.  Chishimba Falls, 15 MW Hydro Power Project by Quarter 4, 2023. Procurement of consultants is under way. This a power plant where we received US$41 million from the Germany Government; and
  5.  feasibility studies for Luapula River basin, 1,000 MW and Batoka Gorge, 1,200 MW underway.

Mr Nkhuwa noted that ZESCO had started implementing the directives by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, to ensure that the supply of power to hospitals and water supply centres is not interrupted.

On the status of Lusaka East Local Forest No. 27, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Ms Jean Kapata told the House that in order to mitigate any potential negative environmental effects as a consequence of the the partial degazetion of the forest, the ministry is in the process of engaging relevant key stakeholders to address environmental issues in this area. She emphasised that the ministry carefully evaluates any protected forest areas proposed for excision or degazation before making any decision in favour or against. She pledged the government’s commitment to identifying areas which can be gazetted as protected forest areas to serve as protection and production areas across the country.

On the repayment of money by serving and former ministers to Government, following the judgment of the Constitutional Court, the Minister of Justice, Mr Given Lubinda, told the House that the State directed the learned Attorney-General to apply for assessment of the amounts to be repaid.

“This is because the State respects the ruling and the finding of the court, that the second to the sixty-fourth respondents ought to pay back the emoluments they earned from 12th of May, 2016 until August when the ruling was passed,” Mr Lubinda told the lawmakers.

The House welcomed five (5) new Hon Members of Parliament following four(4) by-elections in Sesheke, Bahati, Roan and Katuba Parliamentary constituencies and one nomination by His Excellency the President. Dr Bwalya Ng’andu was nominated to the National Assembly as a new Member of Parliament and Minister of Finance.

On a sad note, the House lost, through death, two Members of Parliament for Katuba and Chilubi Parliamentary constituencies.

In addition to their work in the Chamber, Members of Parliament have many other responsibilities. They are accountable (must answer) to the people who voted for them. During the recess, the Members of Parliament are expected to spend time in their constituencies addressing various issues and meeting their constituents. That is a very important part of their job. A first time Member of Parliament in Malawi succinctly describes the role of a Member of Parliament as follows:

“It’s about face time. Voters are not difficult people. If you promise it, do it! [Citizens] like it when MPs go to their constituency to see their faces. MPs should always be with constituents, live in the constituency and be part and parcel of them. Whatever you do matters in elections. You can bring development but if they don’t see you, then electors will not remember.”

After interacting with the constituents, the Members of Parliament will, then, bring whatever issues which they will encounter to the Floor of Parliament for consideration in the next meeting beginning on 11th February, 2020. That way, they will truly be taking Parliament closer to the people.