UPND President Hakainde Hichilema has told the speaker of Parliament Dr Patrick Matibini that his argument in his response to the letter written to him by Simeza Sangwa and Company on behalf of the Law Association of Zambia, that the National Assembly enjoys exclusive and unfettered jurisdiction in the conduct of its internal proceedings, is based on complete misunderstanding and is in disregard to the constitutional provisions and principles of the Constitution of Zambia.
In his letter to the Speaker dated 21st August 2019 and released to the press, Mr Hichilema stated that though the letter from the Speaker was directed to Simeza Sangwa and Company and was in public domain, he was compelled to reply to it on account of his right and obligation as a citizen of Zambia to defend the constitution of Zambia and promote its ideals and objectives.
“The letter from the Clerk raises two main points on which you based your refusal to suspend your legislative process in the National Assembly pending the determination of the matter in the Constitutional Court.
The two grounds stated in the letter are the doctrine of exclusive cognizance and selective application of the ‘sub judice’ rule to the proceedings of the National Assembly. In the letter, you argued that ‘the House (National Assembly) enjoys exclusive and unfettered jurisdiction in the conduct of its internal proceedings’ “, states Mr Hichilema.
He cites the second reason for the Speaker’s refusal to suspend the legislative process as his determination that the application of the ‘sub judice’ rule to the business of the House is not absolute and that it has to be decided by the Speaker on the merits of each case.
“You did not cite any constitutional provisions to support the above claims, save for the narrative followed when enacting legislation. As you have not cited any constitutional provisions that support your arguments, I have taken the liberty to search the Constitution of Zambia to assess the validity of your propositions. Your interpretation and purported application of the above principles is flawed on two grounds”, argues Mr Hichilema.
Mr Hichilema explains that that the doctrine of exclusive cognizance is not constitutional but only affords Parliament privileges and immunity relating to its internal rules and operations provided they were exercised within the ambit of the constitution.
“It is the principle that applies to the United Kingdom, where because the country does not have a written constitution, Parliament is supreme. In Zambia however, the situation is completely different. All institutions including Parliament are creatures of the Constitution and amenable to it.
The law making function of Parliament is a constitutional and public function which cannot possibly fall within your narrow construction of what you term ‘internal proceedings’ of the House”, says Mr Hichilema.
Mr Hichilema alerts the Speaker to a dangers of usurping the constitutional power in his suggestion of the principle of sub judice not being absolute.
“Your claim that the sub judice rule is not absolute and depends on your discretion based on the merits of each case is grossly flawed as that would amount to your usurping a constitutional power, namely, judicial authority, which is lawfully allocated to the Judiciary in this case the Constitutional Court. Any other interpretation would be contrary to the Constitution and its values and principles expressed in the Constitution of Zambia”, stated Mr Hichilema.