Ruling by Hon Madam Speaker - On Guidance on the Procedure Regarding the Arrest of Honorable Members of Parliament on and off the Precincts of the National Assembly


Hon Members will recall that on Wednesday, 7th June, 2023, when the House was considering Matters of Urgent Public Importance, Mr Munir Zulu, Member of Parliament for Lumezi Constituency, raised a matter of urgent public importance on the practice by the Zambia Police Service of waiting for Members of Parliament outside parliament grounds and arresting them without issuing call-outs, which, he referred to as abduction. He mentioned Mr C Shakafuswa, Member of Parliament for Mandevu Constituency, Mr R K Kalimi, Member of Parliament for Malole Constituency and himself as some members who had been abducted in such a manner. He, therefore, sought clarity on the matter.

In my immediate response, I requested Hon J J Mwiimbu, MP, Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security to provide a response to the issues raised by Mr Munir Zulu, MP. In response, Hon J J Mwiimbu, MP, stated that Members of Parliament did not have immunity on criminal matters. He further stated that there was no Member of Parliament who had been abducted and that every arrest of a Member of Parliament had been based on allegations against such Member. 

Hon Members, after a protracted debate on the matter, I reserved my ruling to enable me provide guidance to the House on the arrest of Members of Parliament on or off the precincts of the National Assembly. 

Hon Members, I now proceed to render my guidance.

Hon Members, the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act, Cap. 12 of the Laws of Zambia, among other things, grants Members of Parliament various immunities. These include the freedom from arrest, which is provided under section 5. Section 5 states as follows:

“5. For the duration of a meeting members shall enjoy freedom from arrest for any civil debt except a debt the contraction of which constitutes a criminal offence.”

From the foregoing authority, the following is clear: 
Members are only exempt from arrest for a civil debt and not a debt whose contraction constitutes a criminal offence;
This exemption is only available when the House is in session; and
Members are not exempt from arrest for a criminal offence.

Hon Members, having established that Members have no immunity from arrest for criminal offences, allow me to draw your attention to section 5A of the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act, which provides that- 
“Where a member is arrested for a criminal offence, the arresting officer shall inform the Speaker of the arrest within forty-eight hours of the arrest.”

From the foregoing authorities, it is evident that Members of Parliament can be arrested for a criminal offence while parliament is in session either off or on the precincts of the Assembly. However, once a Member of Parliament has been arrested, the arresting officer must notify me of the arrest within 48 hours.

Hon Members, the manner and form of arrest by police officers is laid out in the Criminal Procedure Code, Chapter 88 of the Laws of Zambia, whose interpretation is the preserve of the courts. I, therefore, cannot delve into whether the arrests complained of by Mr Munir Zulu, MP, were carried out in compliance with the law. 

I thank you.

Ruling Date: 
Wednesday, June 21, 2023