An opposition MP in Zambia was recently suspended from the House for overly criticising President Michael Sata’s official speech on the opening of the second session of the 11th National Assembly. While addressing parliament, a presidential annual tradition which is supposed to be a solemn occasion, President Sata kept on cracking jokes which made him divert significantly from the prepared speech.
Mwandi MP Michael Kaingu, who is also vice president for the former ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) was immediately ejected from the House by the deputy chairperson committee, who was chairing proceedings at the time, and who said:
It is inappropriate for the member to tear the speech. What he should have done was to express his views in the rightful manner.
Another opposition MP, Vincent Mwale, put Kaingu’s actions into perspective when he tweeted the following:
@Vincent Mwale: Hon Kaingu tore the presidents speech in parley today saying we cannot debate it becoz [because] its not what the pres[ident] presented, drama unfolding.
The following day, Mwale also tweeted this:
@VincentMwale: Today's parly session promises more drama as the debate whether to debate MCS [President Michael Chilufya Sata] written speech or his verbatim which ar[e] different continues!
Political satirist, Kalaki’s Korner, was quick to pounce on the unfolding drama:
Just then our daughter Kupela came sailing out onto veranda. ‘Everything working perfectly in Zambia?’ she cackled, spilling some of her gin and tonic onto floor. ‘You’ve come back at the right time! After all these years of peace, a terrible thing has just happened! An unprecedented scandal has shaken the country to its foundations! An opposition MP, Mr Mangle Kayungulu, has just torn up a copy of our Great Leader’s speech to parliament!’
Kaingu’s suspension was received with mixed feelings, with some netizens supporting his act of tearing up the presidential speech and others supporting his suspension.
Phil, reacting to the suspension story, wrote:
Dr. Kaingu you are a man. You vividly stood for your right. Sata’s speech was one of the worst speeches I have ever heard being delivered during the opening of the house. How can you make such jokes like that concerning Fackson Shamenda and Sylvia Masebo. If the president said those words concerning “Facks”, then it was shameful and embarrassing. Only gullible human beings can support such utterances. God warned the children of Israel that when the get to the promised land they should not behave like the people they will find there, but follow the Laws of God who brought them out Egypt.
One reader, Chunza, thought the two weeks suspension was too short:
the time is to[o] short he deserves 3 years and the MMD should also punish him these are the people bringing the party to ruins.sham[e] for a VP and even worse for the poor people he is representing.
The issue also attracted debate on various threads on the Zambian People's Parliament Facebook group. On one thread, Maanka Chipindi asked:
Hon Speaker, the question we must first establish is what is meant by the words “President's Speech”. This is because one of the first acts of a session of parliament after it is opened is to debate this speech. Is the President's speech what he says to parliament or what he hands in on a piece of paper? Is it both? What will parliament record in the minutes? What was said or what was printed? For example, will parliament record the minute of silence for Mama Kaunda and the national anthem sang? If we establish this, then we can decide whether Dr. Kaingu action defiled parliamentary codes. This brings another important question; parliament must agree that both the printed and recorded versions of the presidents speech be tabled because these two go hand in hand. Imagine if the president had verbally abused the MPs during his audio version but not in the printed material, what would that mean?
On another thread on the Zambian People’s Parliament Facebook group page, Wallace Nguluwe asked:
Mr. Speaker I rise on a very serious point of order. I understand that people and members in particular have different ways of expressing their disappointment. Now is the member in order to tear the speech as a way of expressing disgust. if yes, what parliamentary etiquette has he abrogated, and what is the penalty?
The question is, was President Sata's speech one of policy peppered with jokes or was it jokes peppered with policy?