The Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini was wrong to revoke the recognition of MMD as the leader of opposition in Parliament, says Professor Muna Ndulo.
Pro Ndulo revealed this in an his article which he wrote concerning the revocation of the recognition of the many opposition party in the house which was also copied to the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) in which he argued that Dr Matibini was wrong in the manner he handled the matter.
He said that article 84(4) of the Constitution cannot be used to deal with the determination of what requirements an opposition political party was supposed to have if it wanted to be a leader of the opposition.
He said “following MMD’s loss of three Members of Parliament through by elections, the Speaker stated that none of the opposition parties had the required 53 members to satisfy the quorum as provided for under Article 84 (4) of the Zambian constitution.
The current National Assembly is comprised of: 65-PF; MMD-51, UPND-30, ADD-1; FDD-1 and independent-2.
“I argue here that the Speaker’s ruling is conceptually wrong in its treatment of the subject matter at hand. This commentary seeks to show three things: (a) that Article 84 (4) of the constitution does not, and cannot, be read to deal with the determination of whether or not there should be a leader of the opposition in Parliament or who that leader should be; (b) In a Presidential system such as ours having a quorum in Parliament is not a condition for forming a Government; and, (c) according to United Kingdom Parliamentary practice (which we purport to follow) in the absence of disagreement among opposition parties as to the identity of the leader of the opposition, the determination of who is to be a leader of the opposition in Parliament is not a matter to be determined by the Speaker.
“In the absence of disagreement, the answer is that whoever leads the largest opposition party in Parliament is the leader of the opposition,” read the letter in part.
Pro Ndulo further explained that Zambian constitution does not give powers to the Speaker to determine but that under Article 84 (1) it provides that except as otherwise provided in this Constitution all questions at any sitting of the National Assembly shall be determined by a majority of votes of the members present and voting other than the Speaker or the person acting as Speaker as the case may be
(2) The Speaker or person acting as such shall not vote in the first instance, but shall have and exercise a casting vote if there is an equality of votes.
“It then provides in Article 84 (4) “the quorum for a meeting of the National Assembly shall be one third of the total number of members of the Assembly and, if at any time during a meeting of the Assembly objection is taken by any member present that there is no quorum, it shall be the duty of the speaker or person acting as such, either to adjourn the Assembly or, as he may think fit, to suspend the meeting until there is a quorum.
He explained that clearly the Article deals with the numbers of members of Parliament required to quorate the National Assembly and that it does not mention anywhere the question of the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament nor is there any basis for saying that it implicitly deals with that question.
The Professor of law charged that the matter was not considered by Dr Matibini when taking such an action.
“The inescapable conclusion is that it is not a matter that was considered. I therefore find no authority for the proposition that in order for a leader of the opposition to be recognized, his or her party must form a quorum in Parliament.
“It appears that it was argued that since a party that does not have a quorum in Parliament cannot form a government, it therefore cannot be the official opposition.
“Although that might be true in a Parliamentary executive branch led by a President who serves as head of Government.
“Elections are held at scheduled times and cannot be triggered by a vote of no- confidence in Parliament or other such Parliamentary procedures,” he stated.
He said the practice of recognizing a leader for a party in Parliament enhances democracy and effective operation of Parliament.