By GERSHOM NDHLOVU
ON Saturday July 23, I was going through my twitter messages when I saw a message story in which Home Affairs Minister Mkhondo Lungu was deriding former Solicitor-General Sebastian Zulu as a frustrated individual for allegedly attacking President Banda in the hope of getting favours from the opposition Patriotic Front (PF) if it forms government after the forthcoming elections.
Apparently, Zulu, a former Secretary-General of opposition UNIP, some 10 days before, had charged that President Banda’s administration was condoning plunder of national resources which Lungu described as baseless.
Whatever spat was there between the former—mark the word former—UNIP members was there between the two of them was not my concern, but rather that Lungu inadvertently crossed the floor, that is he changed political parties but still remains an MP and a minister, contrary to the Constitution.
The ruling MMD announced its list of parliamentary candidates earlier in the week and among them was Lungu, who together with a PF rebel MP Besa Chimbaka, had been appointed cabinet minister and deputy minister, respectively, from opposition ranks early this year.
Others on the MMD list of aspiring candidates are PF “rebel MPs” Peter Machungwa for Luapula Constituency Bahati’s Besa Chimbaka who is also Luapula Province Minister, Dr Jacob Choongo (Mwense), Faustina Sinyangwe (Matero), Majory Mwape who was MP for a Kantanshi constituency and Elizabeth Mulobeka Chitika (Kawambwa). Machungwa and Mwape will now run in Kabwata and Munali, respectively.
Other serving opposition MPs who have turned up on the MMD candidate list are none other than opposition Nchelenge National Democratic Focus (NDF) MP Ben Mwila and United Party for National Development (UPND) Namwala MP Robby Chizyuka.
Apart from Mwila who is president of the NDF, all the above MPs have been in trouble with their parties principally with issues related to the National Constitution Conference (NCC) which PF president Michael Sata did not want his MPs to attend but they defied him. As for Chizyuka, the problems he had with his party were internal disciplinary matters.
The choice on which party ticket people stand is entirely a personal matter but the problem I have with Lungu who hold constitutional offices of minister and deputy minister, respectively, and the other MPs in general is that they have knowingly or unknowingly crossed the floor—they have changed political parties without relinquishing their seats.
On the part of the MMD, it announced its candidate list without ensuring that parliament was dissolved first. If the ruling party’s list did not have opposition members on it, it would not have been a problem at all.
The Constitution is clear in article 71 (c) which says that “ in the case of an elected member, if he becomes a member of a political party other than the party of which he was an authorised candidate when he was elected to the National Assembly or, if having been an independent candidate, he joins a political party or having been a member of a political party, he becomes an independent…”
For the eight opposition MPs now cavorting with the MMD, the most honourable thing to do now is to cease, on their own, from enjoying the benefits of an MP and in particular for Lungu and Chimbaka to give up their offices which they are now occupying illegally. Unfortunately for the two, even if parliament is dissolved now, they just have to wait until they are reappointed in the new post-election government.
They can also not be nominated after parliament is dissolved but more so because the Constitution states in article 68 (3) that “a person may not be appointed as a nominated member if he was candidate for election in the last preceding general election or in any subsequent by-election.”
As it is now, Lungu cannot superintend over law enforcement wings of government because he is illegally in office.