Ruling by the Hon. Mr. Speaker on the Point of Order raised by G G Nkombo against the Minister of Finance on the Remarks made by the SG of UPND


Hon Members will recall that on Thursday15thOctober, 2020, Hon Dr B K E Ng’andu, MP, Minister of Finance, presented a Ministerial Statement on Zambia’s Public Debt Management Strategy.  Following presentation of the statement, when Mr T J Kasonso, Member of Parliament for Solwezi West Parliamentary Constituency, was about to ask a question, Mr G G Nkombo, Member of Parliament for Mazabuka Central Parliamentary Constituency, raised the following point of order:

“Sir, my point of order is procedural and anchored on the precedents of this House.

Sir, my point of order is on the Hon Minister of Finance. In his question, the Hon Leader of Opposition, Mr Jack Mwiimbu, MP, indicated that the Patriotic Front (PF) is coercing HonMembers of this House, particularly from the opposition where I belong, to vote for the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill No. 10 of 2019, in order for the delimitation exercise to happen.In his response, the Hon Minister made reference to a stranger in this House. 

Sir, you have always ruled that things that are said outside of this House have no bearing whatsoever to the business of this House. The Hon Minister made a reference to Mr Stephen Katuka, the Secretary-General for the United Party for National Development (UPND), as having advocated for the increase of constituencies through delimitation. That being the case, is the Hon Minister of Finance in order to marry a straight question on the Order Paper with the pronouncements that are being made outside this House? 

I seek your ruling, Sir.”

In my immediate response, I reserved my ruling to study the matter. I have since studied the matter, and will now render my ruling.

Hon Members, the Point of Order raised by Mr G G Nkombo, MP, raises the issue whether a Member, in debating, can refer to a statement made by a personoutside the Chamber, who is not a Member of Parliament.
Hon Members, as you are aware, one of the privileges that Members enjoy is freedom of speech, and debate in the House.  This freedom is recognised and protected by the Constitution, Chapter 1 of the Laws of Zambia, and the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act, Chapter 12 of the Laws of Zambia.

In this regard, Article 76 of the Constitution provides as follows: 

“76. (1) A Member of Parliament has freedom of speech and debate in the National Assembly, and that freedom shall not be ousted or questioned in a court or tribunal.”

Additionally, section 3 of the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act is expressed in the following terms:

“3. There shall be freedom of speech and debate in the Assembly. Such freedomof speech and debate shall not be liable to be questioned in any court or place outside theAssembly.”

Hon Members, although the Constitution and the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act, guarantee freedom of speech and debate in the Assembly, such freedom is subject to the rules of the House.One such ruleis that Membersshould desist from bringing,into their debate,third parties, issues that occur, or statements that are made outside the House. Further, Members are prohibited, in their debate, from directly or indirectly,unfairly criticising, or making offensive, disrespectful, derogatory,disparaging or denigrating remarks against persons outside the House. The reason for this, is that the freedom of expressionallowed to Members,entails that a Member is granted immunity from being sued or impeached or questioned, in a court of law, because any statements made in the course of Parliamentary proceedings are absolutely privileged, thereby leavesan aggrieved person, without legal redress. It is for this reason that Presiding Officers have ruled on many occasions, that Members should steer away from debating people who are not in the House and, have no opportunity to defend or justify themselves.

Another cardinal ruleof the House stipulates that the information a Member provides to the Houseshould be factual, verifiable, and substantiated. In this regard, Standing Order No. 53 (1)of the National of Assembly Standing Orders, 2016 provides as follows:
“A member shall, in debating any matter, ensure that the information he or she provides to the House is factual and verifiable.”

Hon Members, I have rendered several rulings on this matter.  I, therefore, do not wish to belabour the point, suffice to say that Members may make reference to the cases of Hon S Kampyongo, MP, v Dr C Kambwili, MP (Daily Parliamentary Debate of 21st March, 2018), and Mr G G Nkombo, MP v Hon Dr C Chilufya, MP (Daily Parliamentary Debate of 13th July, 2018).Finally, Members should ensure that the information they provide is relevant to the business before the House.

I must state, here, that to proscribe Members frommakingany reference to statements made outside the House,absolutely, and unconditionally, would not only infringe Members freedom of expression and debate in the House, but would also simply be impracticable. Therefore, the benchmark that is employed to ascertain whether or not a Member’s reference to an outsider or and a statement by an outsider is admissible, iswhether such a statement is relevant, factual and verifiable in relation, to the issues under consideration by the House. And, further,is not offensive, disrespectful, derogating, disparaging, or denigrating of an outsider.

I now wish to address the issue or question raised by Mr G G Nkombo, MP, in his Point of Order. That is,whether the Hon Minister of Finance was in order to makereference to the statement by the Secretary-General of the UPND, in his response to the question asked.Hon Members, I wish to inform the House that I had recourse to the Parliamentary Debates of Thursday 15th October, 2020.The relevant excerpt reads as follows:

“Mr Mwiimbu: Sir, our colleagues on your right have been luring our colleagues by stating that they will create more constituencies so that there will be more Hon Members in this House which means that there will be more cost to the Government. That is what it means. Now, with those proposals in the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill No.10 of 2019, does the Hon Minister not think that he will have difficulties convincing our lenders that we are having fiscal problems in the country when they are showing that they have a lot of money?  

Mr Ng’andu: Mr Speaker, I thank you. Let me comment on the comment made by the Leader of the Opposition regarding the delimitation exercise. I think we all recall that a few days ago, the Secretary-General of his own party was advocating for the increase in the number of constituencies except that he wanted it to be done outside the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill No.10 of 2019 context.”

Hon Members, from the foregoing, it is evident that the Hon Minister of Finance made reference to astatementby the Secretary-General of UPNDmade outside the House on the delimitation of constituencies.  This was done in reference to the issue of the delimitation exercise raised in the question to him by Hon J J Mwiimbu, MP.  Therefore, reference to the statement, was relevant to the business before the House.  It is further noteworthy that in making reference to the statement, the Hon Minister of Finance did not in any way make a personal attack or disparage the UPND Secretary-General.  He merely made reference to a statement that the Secretary-General had made, which was, as a matter of fact, already in the public domain.

In view of the foregoing, my ruling is that the Hon Minister of Finance was not out of order.

I thank you.

Ruling Date: 
Friday, November 13, 2020