Ruling by the Hon Mr Speaker on a Point of Order raised by Mr J J Mwiimbu, Leader of the Opposition and Member Of Parliament for Monze Central Parliamentary Constituency on why the Members in the Chamber could not use the Bosch Communication System

Hon Members will recall that on Wednesday, 30thSeptember, 2020, Hon M Kafwaya, Minister of Transport and Communication, presented a Ministerial Statement on the 2020/2021 Rainy Season Forecast.  Following the presentation of the statement, and as Ms C Kasanda, Member of Parliament for Chisamba Parliamentary Constituency, was about to ask a question, Mr J J Mwiimbu, Member of Parliament for Monze Central Parliamentary Constituency and Leader of the Opposition, raised the following Point of Order:
“Mr Speaker, I have noted that for the last two days, we have been having challenges with the E-Chamber System. Thus, we cannot access the proceedings using the system.
Mr Speaker, I just want your advice on this particular matter. Why would we, Hon Members who are in this House, be advised to use Zoom when the local system which we have been using is still functioning? Why can those of us who are in the Chamber not use the system which we are used to if the other systems are not functioning?
Sir, I am failing to log in because of what is happening, and so, I need your guidance on this matter.”
In my immediate response, I reserved my ruling.  I have studied the matter and will now render my ruling.
Hon Members, I would like to state from the outset that the complaint raised in the Point of Order has been raised previously by Members.  Therefore, I wish to seize this opportunity to provide guidance on this matter.
Hon Members, currently, the sitting of the House is being conducted under a Hybrid System as provided under Standing Order 4 of the National Assembly of Zambia (Corona Virus Disease-2019) Temporary Standing Orders, 2020. 
Standing Order 4 is expressed in the following terms:
“Manner of Sitting
(1) During the Coronavirus period, the House may meet physically, virtually or a combination of physical and virtual methods as determined by the House Business Committee.
(2) Where the House Business Committee determines that the House meets partly physically and partly virtually, the Speaker, in consultation with the leaders of political parties, shall decide which members [are] to attend a sitting physically in the Chamber and which members [are] to attend virtually in designated rooms within the precincts of the Assembly or in other places outside the precincts of the Assembly.
(3) A member shall be at liberty to virtually attend a sitting of the House from any place outside the precincts of the Assembly with good Internet connectivity.
(4) Notwithstanding any provision to the contrary, a Minister or backbencher who has an item of business on the Order Paper for a particular day shall sit in the chamber on that day.
(5) A presiding officer shall chair a sitting of the Assembly from the Chamber.”
The foregoing Standing Order clearly provides for sittings of the House to be held using a hybrid system comprising physical and virtual meetings. The adoption of a hybrid system by the National Assembly has necessitated the use of a combination of information and communication technologies comprising the following:
(i) The Bosch Communication System;
(ii) Zoom Platform; and
(iii) E-Chamber.
The Bosch Communication System is the system installed in the Chamber and Committee Rooms.  It has been in use for several years. It allows Members to perform a variety of functions, including logging in, indicating to speak, voting and debating.
Zoom is an application designed for virtual meetings. It allows Members to log in and automatically generates a list of Members who are logged in. It has an audio and video feature which enables Members to speak and be seen. It further has a function that allows Members to raise their hands in order to indicate to speak.  However, the raise hand function does not transmit an automatic list of those indicating to speak to the Speaker.  Instead, the Office of the Clerk compiles the list and transmits it to the Speaker.
The procedure under the Zoom platform is as follows:
(1) The ICT department generates Zoom meeting details at least an hour before the sitting of the House. The details are circulated to Members using WhatsApp and e-mail.
(2) A Member may use the Zoom login details to participate in the sitting of the House while in the Chamber, a designated room or any other location. They can do this by using the following steps:
(i) Open Zoom Application on the supplied tablet;
(ii) enter meeting ID supplied by the office of the Clerk through the ICT department;
(iii) just below where the meeting ID is entered, a member is required to enter their name followed by their constituency.  If a Member is a Minister or a nominated Member of Parliament, he or she must indicate their portfolio or nominated in place of constituency.  Members may wish to note that if they do not enter their name and constituency/portfolio/nominated details correctly, they may not be admitted to the meeting;
(iv) press on join meeting;
(v) the Zoom application will then request for the passcode.  The Member will be required to enter the passcode supplied to all members for the Zoom meeting; and
(vi) the Member should press login.
Once a Member has pressed login, they will be placed in a waiting room until admitted into the meeting by the Office of the Clerk through the ICT operations desk.
Hon Members, at this juncture, I wish to emphasise that for security reasons, and in order to ensure that only Members of Parliament participate in the proceedings, only members who have correctly entered their details, outlined above, are admitted into the meeting.
Hon Members, e-Chamber is an application that has been developed by the Office of the Clerk to complement the Zoom platform.  The Zoom Application has limitations. Therefore, it was necessary to develop an application to enable Members of Parliament perform the following functions:
(i) indicate to the Speaker their intention to ask a question or debate;
(ii) indicate to call for a division;
(iii) indicate a Point of Order; and
(iv) access parliamentary documents.
The e-Chamber application is installed on Members’ Huawei Tablets.  To access e-Chamber, a Member must do the following:
(i)    open the e-Chamber application; and
(ii) enter their username and password.
(i) Indicating to Speak under e-Chamber
The e-Chamber application has the Speaker’s List on the left. A Member who wishes to speak presses on the green plus sign. Immediately they do this, they are included on the list of people to be called upon to speak.  A member who indicates to speak, but later changes his or her mind, can remove himself or herself from the list by pressing the red minus sign.
 (ii) Indicating for a division under e-Chamber
Currently, the Temporary Standing Orders do not provide for the manner in which Members can call for a division.  In this regard, the provisions of Standing Order 64 apply. Standing Order 64 is couched in the following terms:
“64. Division to take place if decision is challenged
(1) Subject to paragraph (2) of this Standing Order, if the opinion of the Speaker as to the decision of a question is challenged, a Division shall take place.
(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), the Speaker may immediately call upon those who, in his opinion, were in the minority to stand in their places, and –
(a) if fewer than twelve stand, the Speaker shall declare the decision of the Assembly, or
(b) if twelve or more stand, the Speaker shall order the Division bells to be rung and a Division shall take place.”
The import of the foregoing provision is that twelve (12) Members have to stand up in order to call for a division. However, given the current hybrid system being used, it may be difficult for Members to stand up physically.  To this end, the e-Chamber platform has made provision for members to call for a division through a division list. 
On the right of the e-Chamber application, there is a division list.  A member who wishes to call for a division must press on the green plus sign.  Immediately they press, their constituency, portfolio or, if a nominated Member without a portfolio, their name will be included on the division list.  A Member who calls for a division who later changes their mind may remove themselves from the division list by pressing the red minus sign.
(iii) Indicating for Point of Order under e-Chamber
The Temporary Standing Orders do not provide for the manner of raising a Point of Order. However, Standing Order 46 (d) allows a Member to interrupt another Member on the Floor in order to raise a Point of Order. It is in the following terms:
“46.(d) A member shall not interrupt another member who is speaking unless the member interrupting wants to call attention to a point of order or a matter of privilege.”
Hon Members, ordinarily a Member will indicate their intention to raise a Point of Order by rising in their place.  However, it is impracticable to administer standing order 46(d) under the hybrid system.  In view of this, the e-Chamber system has provided a virtual way of doing this by creating a Point of Order feature.
To this end, in the top right corner of the e-Chamber application, there is a green bell with a plus sign on it.  A Member who wishes to raise a Point of Order must press on the green plus sign. Once a Member presses the sign, the Member’s constituency, portfolio, or name, as the case may be, appears on the screen as having requested a Point of Order.  A Member who changes their mind after indicating their intention to raise a Point of Order may cancel their request.  They may do so, by pressing the red bell with a plus sign on it.  Once that is done, their request will disappear from the screen.
(iv) Parliamentary documents under e-Chamber
Standing Order 16 of the Temporary Standing Orders makes provision for the electronic distribution of documents. It states as follows:
 “16. Distribution of Documents
(1) All documents shall be distributed electronically to all Members of Parliament and the public.
(2) A document shall be deemed to have been Tabled when it is uploaded on the parliamentary e-platform.”
Hon Members, the foregoing Standing Order necessitated the creation of an electronic platform on which all documents before the House are deposited and, thereby, Tabled.
The e-Chamber platform has achieved this by providing a document feature which contains all the documents before the House. These include the Order Paper, the President’s Official Opening Address to the National Assembly, the Budget Address, Yellow Book, announcements, notices, Bills and committee reports.  To access these documents, a Member must press on documents.  A list of documents ensues, and the Member may select the document they require.
Hon Members, in the hybrid system adopted by the House, the Zoom application is the primary platform. It is used to interconnect Members in different locations.  Namely, the Chamber, designated rooms at Parliament Buildings and the various other locations Members elect to participate in the proceedings from.
While some aspects of the Bosch Communication System used in the Chamber and the Committee rooms, have been incorporated in the hybrid system, others have not.  For instance, the audio function has been linked, while the login indicating, and voting functions have not.  These aspects have been omitted, because the two systems are different, and lack the interface to exchange that kind of information.  In this regard, under the hybrid system, the Bosch Communication System used in the Chamber only enables Members to speak on the Floor of the House.  For other functions such as indicating to speak or indicating to rise on a division or a Point of Order, Members must use either Zoom or the e-Chamber system.
Hon Members, the platforms I have just highlighted do not work in isolation, but complement each other. In this regard, depending on a Member’s location and the function they wish to perform, a Member may use the following:
(i) CHAMBER-Bosch System and Zoom;
(ii) COMMITTEE ROOMS- Bosch System and Zoom; 
(iii) AMPHITEATRE- Zoom; and
(i) Chamber- Zoom, traditional method of standing or e-Chamber system;
(ii) Various locations- Zoom or e-Chamber system.
Hon Members, coming back to Hon J J Mwiimbu, MP’s Point of Order, I wish to confirm that, indeed, there were veritable challenges with the e-Chamber system on Tuesday, 29th September and Wednesday, 30th September, 2020, as stated by Hon J J Mwiimbu, MP, in his Point of Order. 
However, as I have already explained, under the hybrid system currently employed for our proceedings, the Bosch Communications System in the Chamber can only be used to speak.  For other functions such as indicating to speak, rising on a Point of Order or calling for a division, Members in the Chamber cannot use the Bosch system.  As such, Hon Members are at liberty to use either the Zoom or e-Chamber platform.  I am alive to the fact that Hon Members have undergone extensive training on the use of both the Zoom and e-Chamber platforms.  In this regard, where Members encounter challenges indicating on the e-Chamber platform, as was the case, on 29th and 30th September, 2020, they can use the Zoom platform.  I, therefore, urge Hon Members to be versatile with the different platforms available to them in their various locations, and the functions they can perform on those platforms.
I thank you.
Ruling Date: 
Wednesday, October 7, 2020