Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini says he could not find Richard Sakala’s Daily Nation Newspaper contempt of parliament because the article they published was already published by the Zambian Watchdog.
This was in his ruling on a Point of Order raised by Patriotic Front (PF) Bangweulu MP Chifita Mutafwali regarding a newspaper article entitled ‘Kaingu suspected from Parliament’ published in the Daily Nation Newspaper on October 4, 2012.
Mr Mutafwali wondered whether the Daily Nation was in order to issue such a statement contrary to Dr Matibini’s ruling.
Dr Matibini said the matter was referred to the committee on privileges, absences and support services that was yet to formally report to the House.
He said he was equally perturbed when he leant about the unfortunate leakage and that obviously it could only be from a member but said the matter was under investigation.
Section 25 (a) of the National Assembly (Powers and Privileges) Act Cap 12 of the Laws of Zambia provides that: “Any person who (a) publishes, save by the general or special leave of the Assembly, a report of any proceedings of the Assembly or any committee when such proceedings have not been held in public, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding 5, 000 penalty units or to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding 12 months or both.”
Dr Matibini appealed to parliamentarians to maintain honour in matters of that sort adding that confidence that was reposed in them should be justified.
“However, I suppose this is a very difficult habit to practice. Nonetheless .I will urge the House to observe utmost confidentiality. That is as far as I can go,” he said.
Dr Michael Kaingu who is MMD vice president and Mwandi MP was suspended for two weeks from Parliament business after he tore President Michael Sata’s official opening Parliament speech.
Dr Matibini said in line with parliamentary practice and procedure and the principle of natural justice, the office of Clerk of the National Assembly wrote to managing editor of the Daily Nation Newspaper Richard Sakala requesting him to disclose the source of information reported in the article in question.
He said Mr Sakala was requested to show cause why the National Assembly should not cite the Daily Nation Newspaper for breach of parliamentary privilege and compete of the House.
The Daily Nation Newspaper responded through its lawyers Messers Makala & Company “Our client’s position is that the article reported on a matter that was already in the public domain having gone viral as carried by the Online Watchdog publication http//www.zambianwatchdog.com and subsequent discussion by bloggers within and outside Zambia on October 3, 2012.The story published by our client on Thursday, October 4, 2012 in volume 2, Issue No. 292 was a follow up on the ensuring public debate and was titled: Kaingu suspended from Parliament?”
Among responses from the lawyers were that the article erroneously indicated the matter was before the standing orders committee of parliamentary procedures and privileged instead of the appropriate parliamentary committee where the matter had been referred to by the Honorable Speaker also lends credence to our clients’ position that the article was not based on any report of the proceedings of the appropriate parliamentary committee.
Dr Matibini said after examining the evidence submitted by Mr Sakala, the committee established that the defence raised by the Daily Nation Newspaper that it had published the article in question because the information was already in the public domain was justifiable.
He said the committee found that the Daily Nation Newspaper was not in breach of parliamentary privilege.