BAHATI PF member of parliament Harry Kalaba saluted the House yesterday for its ‘unanimous’ “no vote” that he be reprimanded for unauthorised 18 days of absence from parliamentary proceedings.
Kalaba, who resigned as a foreign affairs minister on January 2, has rarely attend parliamentary business since February.
After parliamentary proceedings started at 14:30 hours yesterday, Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini ordered Kalaba to stand behind the bar and that the Sergeant at Arms stands behind the lawmaker.
Speaker Matibini then told the House that on March 19, 2018, chief whip Steven Chungu (Luanshya PF member of parliament) wrote to Kalaba regarding his absence from the date that the House commenced the legislative meetings on February 20
“The chief whip reminded Mr Kalaba, MP, of the need for a member to seek the permission of either the Speaker or himself (the chief whip) if they were to be absent from the House. The chief whip further requested Mr Kalaba, MP, to furnish him with reasons why his absence from the House should not be referred to the committee on privileges, absences and support services,” Speaker Matibini said, adding that Kalaba’s written response was that he had bereavements.
“…he added that he notified Mr J. Chabi, member of parliament for Chipili parliamentary Constituency on the situation and had requested to convey the reasons of his absence from the House to the Honourable chief whip but regrettably Mr J. Chabi, MP, had not done this. His absence from the House was neither deliberate nor intended to undermine the Office of the Chief Whip or indeed the decorum and etiquette of the House. The House may wish to know that the Office of the Clerk wrote to Mr J. Chabi, MP, who confirmed that indeed he had been asked by Mr H. Kalaba, MP, to communicate his absence and the circumstances leading to it either to the Speaker or the chief whip but had forgotten to do so.”
He added that in line with parliamentary procedure and the rules of natural justice, Kalaba appeared before the absences committee.
“In his submission to the committee, Mr H Kalaba, MP, reiterated the fact that his absence from the House was due to the fact that he had funerals in his constituency and that he had attempted to communicate his absence to the Honourable Mr Speaker through Mr J. Chabi,” Speaker Matibini said.
“With regards his absence on 14th and 15th of June, 2018, Mr H Kalaba informed that committee that 14th June, 2018, he was attending rehearsals for his graduation ceremony which he attended on 15th June 2018. He added [that] he informed the chief whip that he would be absent on those days…
The committee, upon deliberation on the matter, found that Mr H Kalaba’s conduct of being absent from the House for 18 days without prior permission of either the Honourable Mr Speaker or the chief whip was a breach of Standing Order 1513…”
And Speaker Matibini indicated that in deciding what punishment to mete out on Kalaba, the committee noted that Standing Order 1513 only provided for two options.
“The committee elected to exercise lenience to resolve that Kalaba be reprimanded, in accordance with Standing Order 1513 of the National Assembly of Zambia Standing Orders 2016. I now put the question; the question is that this House do reprimand Mr H Kalaba, MP, for unauthorised absence from the House for 18 days. As many as are of that opinion say ‘I’ [and] of the contrary say ‘no,’” he said.
Only a few muffled voices were heard voting positively while the House reverberated with a “no” vote.
“The nos have it and therefore the motion is negative. That’s it!” ruled Speaker Matibini.
Kalaba, who then saluted and later walked to his seat with a grin, shook hands with some members of parliament and then sat.