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Speaker overstepped his powers

THE Constitutional Court has ruled that the Speaker of the National Assembly overstepped his powers when he interpreted the law in declaring Chishimba Kambwili’s Roan seat vacant.

The court noted that the function of interpreting the law and the Constitution is vested in the Judiciary.
In this matter Mr Kambwili who is former Roan MP had petitioned the Constitutional Court to declare and order that Speaker of the National Assembly, Patrick Matibini’s declaration of his seat vacant on allegations of ‘floor crossing’ was null and void.

But the Attorney General argued that in an event that the court declared the Speakers decision illegal, it would have created a serious constitutional crisis as there was already another elected Member for Roan Constituency.

On February 27, 2019 Speaker Matibini declared the Roan seat vacant after a point of order by Malambo Member of Parliament Makebi Zulu.

The court , however in its judgement observed that while Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini was well within his power to respond to the point of order that was raised on the floor of the house, he exceeded his powers when he proceeded to apply the purposive canon of interpretation of statutes in order to ‘ cure’ the lucuna that he identified in Article 72 of the constitution as amended.

“We find that the Speaker exceeded his power as the function of interpreting the law and the constitution is vested in the judiciary as provides by Article 119 of the constitution. The interpretation of the Constitution as a legal instrument is the function of the courts, the branch of Government to whom is assigned that delivers task.”

Meanwhile, the court throw out Mr Kambwili’s petition stating it has no jurisdiction to delve into the issues whether or not Mr Kambwili crossed the floor or whether his seat fell vacant or not because those were matters which were pending before the High Court under whose jurisdiction they fall.

The full bench of the court headed by Constitutional Court president Hilda Chibomba after considering arguments from both parties stated that considering and determining the issues raised under the relief sought would amount to the court acting as if it was an appellant court from the ruling of the Speaker when in fact it was not.

It said the effect of granting a discharge or declaration would have the effect of nullifying the current Roan Member of Parliament Joseph Chishala’s election as there can not be two Members of parliament for the same constituency under the law.

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