UNITED Party for National Development (UPND) members of Parliament yesterday walked out of the House after accusing the Patriotic Front of abusing their rights to freedom of assembly on the Copperbelt.
UPND Monze Central Member of Parliament Jack Mwiimbu, who was the man of the moment, raised a point of order requesting the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Patrick Matibini, to rule in the matter in which suspected PF cadres attacked UPND members in Kitwe yesterday at their offices.
“Mr Speaker, my point of order derives from Article 22, 20, 19 of the Constitution of Zambia, arising from a statement made by Her Honour the Vice President that UPND will not be allowed to hold meetings on the Copperbelt for security reasons.
“As a result of her statement, PF cadres this morning took it upon themselves and went to our Kitwe offices in truck loads with stones and pangas…
‘‘They have destroyed our offices and furniture and they were hacking anybody found in the viciniy of the offices,” Mr Mwiimbu said. He said UPND would not sit idly by and watch its members’ rights violated by the PF Government.
“Mr Speaker, we have been complaining about the violation of our people by the PF Government… UPND and Rainbow Party have been stopped from visiting the Copperbelt.
‘‘Is this Government in order to violate our rights with impunity as if we are not Zambians? Mr Speaker, is this Government in order to violate our fundamental rights of assembly as Zambians?” Mr Mwiimbu asked.
But just as the Speaker was about to deliver a ruling, Mr Mwiimbu walked out of the House together with the other UPND MPs.
Meanwhile, Shuwang’andu Member of Parliament Steven Kampyongo raised a follow-up point of order questioning the behaviour of UPND members who had walked out of the House.
Mr Kampyongo wanted to find out from the Speaker if UPND members were in order to behave in a ‘‘dishonourable manner’’ by walking in and out of Parliament.
“Mr Speaker, we all come here expecting to behave in an honourable manner because we come here at the expense of taxpayers money. Now, Mr Speaker, are these people in order to walk out of this honourable House in such a manner?” Mr Kampyongo said.
But Dr Matibini in his ruling said he was not aware why UPND MPs decided to walk out of the House.
After walking out of the House, UPND members held a closed door meeting in a conference room at the media centre of the National Assembly. Addressing the media after caucus meeting, party secretary general Steven Katuka said UPND president Hakainde Hichilema was on the Copperbelt on an invitation by party members to officiate at a fundraising function at Moba Hotel in Kitwe.
“Am sure you must be wondering why we walked out the House. Your may recall that last week Friday Her Honour the Vice President stated that Copperbelt was a no-go area for the opposition. We felt that her statement was an infringement on our rights,” Mr Katuka said.
He said Mr Hichilema decided to go to the Copperbelt following invitation by party members.
“But surprisingly today, the PF Government organized a truckload of cadres to go and attack us; so many of our members have been injured according to reports which we have received from our colleagues who are on the Copperbelt,” he said.
Mr Katuka said President Edgar Lungu had asked for reconciliation by going to church for prayers but what happened on the Copperbelt had defeated the purpose for his call for reconciliation.
He said UPND had continued being harassed by the PF despite President Lungu calling for reconciliation.
Mr Katuka said UPND would not sit down and watch the PF continue harassing them.
Asked if the UPND boycott of Parliament would continue, Mr Katuka said the caucus meeting would decide the matter.