By CHILA NAMAIKO and SEPO KALALUKA –
VICE-PRESIDENT Inonge Wina took to the floor of Parliament yesterday to make a stout defence of President Edgar Lungu’s comments in revelations on Thursday that a clique of judges was plotting a Kenya-style plot to bar him from contesting the 2021elections.
Ms Wina’s comments, in response a point of order raised by Mazabuka MP Garry Nkombo about the appropriateness of Mr Lungu’s remarks, triggered a walk-out by the opposition UPND bench, along with PF rebel, Chishimba Kambwili.
This was after Speaker Dr Patrick Matibini had ruled that Ms Wina had given a sufficient response to Mr Nkombo’s point of order asking whether the Executive arm of Government was in order to interfere with the judiciary with Mr Lungu’s warning to the unidentified judges he referred to in his comments.
Ms Wina said Mr Lungu’s comments should not be seen as meddling in the judiciary, but rather as advice from the chief executive officer of Zambia and whose responsibility it was to take care of every citizen.
She explained to the House yesterday that President Lungu was merely counselling the judges since his desire was to see peace continue to prevail and be enjoyed by all citizens.
Ms Wina reminded the members that if war broke out in the country, the President would be held accountable, hence his commitment to protect the lives of all citizens against those that wanted to disrupt peace and unity.
“This country enjoys parliamentary democracy through separation of powers. What the President said was merely counselling one arm of Government because Zambians have a habit of ‘copy-and-paste, but we need to think about how we want our country to run to foster prosperity,” she said.
Ms Wina repeated the clarification during Vice-President’s question time in response to UPND Chikankanta Member of Parliament (MP) Kabwe Mwiinga’s question on President Lungu’s statement over judges scheming to bar him from standing in the 2021 elections.
She said contrary to speculation from some sections of society, President Lungu was not warning the judges, but providing counselling to them to realise what was happening in other countries.
Mr Lungu had made the comments in Solwezi on Wednesday saying that a clique of Zambian judges was collaborating with a section of the international community to bar him from standing for president in 2021.
The reference to Kenya appeared to be in relation to the decision of the courts in that country nullifying the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta and calling for fresh elections after an a challenge by the opposition.
There is currently a case before the Constitutional court of Zambia brought by some political parties seeking clarification about whether Mr Lungu is eligible to stand in 2021, having served a part of late Michael Sata’s tenure and been elected to a full term of his own last year.
In his ruling, Dr Matibini told the House that the matter was also political and that he personally did not deal with matters happening outside the House.
The ruling led to a walk out by all UPND MPs and Mr Kambwili leaving only Cabinet ministers, and a few independent lawmakers.
The MPs then assembled in the foyer where an impromptu press briefing was called and addressed by Mr Kambwili as the group’s spokesperson.
The Roan MP accused President Lungu of wanting to interfere with the judiciary.
He said “We are making a protest by walking out of Parliament after the ruling by the Speaker and the annoying answers by the Vice President, especially where she said the President is the chief executive of the country and has the right to warn anybody,” Mr Kambwili said.
Justice Minister Given Lubinda, who was winding up debates on his ministry’s Budget, said the walk-out by the opposition MPs had not addressed any matter despite the action being their democratic right.
Some of the walkers later went back into the House.