I did not go to parliament and neither did i watch the proceedings. However, social media and my comrades who attended the address alulled to the fact that all UPND MPs save for Chilanga’s Keith Mukata boycotted the address.
First the boycott was expected because the current mechanisms for the resolution of electoral disputes are ineffective. The wheels for electoral justice are punctured. And the courts lack the necessary electoral skills, integrity, experiences and expertise to do this currently. In fact they are the major contributor to this current political and electoral mayhem obtaining in the country. This trend of boycotts may continue and an effective way of reconciling the two sworn electoral enemies must be found. We can’t bury our head and say all is well.
Secondly, what Keith Mukata did disregarding his party’s position to boycott the presidential address is morally wrong but legally and constitutionally correct. His arguments splashed on social media if true, are also correct that there are many legal avenues for him to fight any possible suspension from the party.
As I stated on Chishimba Kambwili that the constitution protects truant MPs or elected leaders who decide to go against their parties and some of them will definitely exploit this Article 72 and destabilise their parties. It is up to the affected parties to devise a very wise firefighting mechanisms. Mukata’s incident may be the lighting of MPs’ rebellion against their parties.
Article 72 (2) (e) explains one of the situations when the office of the MP can be vacant which when an MP “is expelled from the political party which sponsored the member for election to the National Assembly;
Sub Article (5) explains the difficulties a party is likely to meet should an expelled MPs go legal by challenging his/her expulsion. “Where a Member of Parliament is expelled as provided in clause (2) (e), the member shall not lose the seat until the expulsion is confirmed by a court, except that where the member does not challenge the expulsion in court and the period prescribed for challenge lapses, the member shall vacate the seat in the National Assembly.
(6) Where a court determines that an expulsion of a member,
as provided in clause (2) (e),was not justified, there shall be no by-election for that seat and the member shall opt to—
(a) remain a member of the political party and retain the seat;
or (b) resign from the political party and retain the seat as an
independent member. (7) Where a court determines that an expulsion of a member, as provided in clause (2) (e),was justified, the member shall vacate the seat in the National Assembly.”
So legally it is very difficult for a political party to expel an elected MP…it is therefore up to political parties to scrutinise the people they adopt in terms of principles, loyalties and commitment. Otherwise, a within political party rebellion among MPs against their party leadership is possible under this article.
Therefore, Mukata’s conduct is constitutionally and legally right but morally wrong. The boycott is constitutionally right could be morally wrong.