CHOMA Central UPND member of parliament Cornelius Mweetwa yesterday stood on a point of order in Parliament complaining that infrastructure development and housing minister Ronald Chitotela has consistently threatened him with death on account of his parliamentary debates.
Mweetwa, the UPND deputy spokesperson, says threats of death will not deter him from speaking fearlessly and fairly for Zambians.
As Mwinilunga UPND member of parliament Newton Samakayi was debating, Mweetwa indicated that he had a point of order and first deputy Speaker Catherine Namugala granted it.
He said he was rising on “a very serious” point of order that bordered on the privileges and immunity bestowed upon members of the House.
“Chairperson, as a member of parliament, amongst the fundamental roles that I must play, just like any of my colleagues here in the House, beyond representation and legislation, is budget approval, which is what we are doing right now and also providing oversight to the executive,” Mweetwa said.
“Last week when we were debating a vote in respect of the Ministry of Home Affairs, and specifically Zambia Police, I stood on the floor of this House to debate in respect of the motion on the floor of the House. As you would agree with me, madam chairperson, the thrust of my debate was basically to support the budget of the Zambia Police and I used the occasion to point out certain things such as the corruption under PF. I did not mention any individual to be corrupt but I said under PF and I cited instances because as you know, madam chairperson, my statements are guarded – I don’t make blanket statements that are baseless.”
To buttress his allegations of corruption against the PF government, Mweetwa gave examples like abuse of social cash transfer, the 80 officers suspended at the Ministry of General Education due to abuse of public funds.
“I also made reference to the construction of a toll gate at the cost of $4.3 million which the citizens are saying that this is abuse of public funds and I suspect that my elder brother here, the Minister of Infrastructure Development and Housing [Ronald Chitotela] got concerned. At break time, he followed me to the lounge where he told me ‘iwe mwaiche (youngman), why are you debating like that? Don’t you know that the way you are debating is dangerous? That is risky mwaiche; you can be killed!’” Mweetwa told the House.
“Then I said, before realising the gravity of the threat, me I’m a police officer, I’m not worried about dying. He said ‘no, take this seriously; you can be killed. There are people in this country who do no other job other than killing, there are people in this country who are trained, employed and are paid just to kill. So, you can be killed, mwaiche.’”
The lawmaker recounted, however, that he had a long standing “relationship or friendship or comradeship” with Chitotela and that he took the minister’s alleged remarks to be “one of the usual jokes we throw around.”
“…The same way I joke with many members of parliament and ministers of PF because some of them are my personal friends. Now, what got me concerned, madam chairperson, is that today (yesterday) a member of parliament from the UPND approached me, arising from the debate I had yesterday (on Tuesday) on the Ministry of Religious Affairs wherein I again made reference to corruption under PF which I substantiated by pointing out the areas which are already in public domain. I also made reference to the $4.3 million tollgate,” Mweetwa reciunted.
“Then a member of parliament from the UPND approached me and said ‘Honourable Chitotela has told me to caution you that your line of debate is dangerous, that your line of debate is risky’ and he told that member of parliament to say ‘I personally approached Mweetwa and I told him to say be careful because in this country there is a wing of government which has people who are employed, trained and paid to do nothing but to eliminate people who are a problem to government. So, you caution Mweetwa to tone down and veer off his line of debate on the floor of the House. This wing is there; president Rupiah Banda didn’t use it, president Michael Sata didn’t use but it is there, it can be used anytime.’”
Mweetwa then asked Namugala whether Chitotela was in order to begin to instill fear “in the members of parliament of the UPND, attempt to instill fear in me?”
“Is he in order, madam chairperson? Is he in order, madam chairperson, to threaten harm to me and by necessary extension threaten harm and death to my family who could become targets in the execution of what he is referring to? I need your serious ruling, madam chairperson,” he begged.
Namugala reserved her ruling so that investigations into Mweetwa’s assertions could be conducted and then a ruling rendered accordingly.
When called to comment, Mweetwa explained that he took such threats seriously because there could be “no smoke without fire.”
“This is pointing to a smoking gun. I am holding the view that probably the Holy Spirit is working through Honourable Chitotela because he is a man of God, he is a Church person. So, the Holy Spirit is working and operating through him to deliver this information of what could be a subject of consideration by evil people. Honourable Chitotela is not an evil person – I have known him for a long time,” he said.
“He has been a good member of parliament and a minister and he is one of those I, even publicly on the floor of the House, do commend for being sober. So, for him to be involved in this issue, I would like to urge the public not to look at him as a bad person. You cannot kill a messenger! He is just a messenger [and] I’m now harbouring very serious suspicion that it is evil people who could be planning such things but him (Chitotela) is driven by the Holy Spirit to reveal this to me.”
Mweetwa said Zambians should not think that Chitotela was a bad person.
“I thank him that he has been used as a vessel by the Holy Spirit to convey this message to me so that I’m wary and aware of what evil people elsewhere, who I don’t know, could be thinking. Threats would not deter me from standing up for the people of Zambia and speak fearlessly and fairly. I’m encouraged – we are about to reach the destination,” he said.
Mweetwa said he had been an advocate against corruption as African Parliamentarians Network Against Corruption Zambia chapter president.
He said to fight corruption, one had to make a personal judgment that in the battle there would be those who had made money and were benefiting from corruption and were ready to eliminate those speaking ill about corruption.
“I am ready for anything and I insist that the scandals that have arisen out of the PF government in terms of abuse and plunder of national resources, is an indictment that all of us Zambians who believe in a better Zambia, who want to hand over Zambia to our children, which is sustainable and sound economically and in terms of good governance, should continue to speak out and tell the truth and that incidentally arising out of the many scandals of PF, some say PF must leave office peacefully through the ballot because the majority of the citizens have said so,” said Mweetwa. “With or without threats, the struggle we are on is not mine, it’s for the suffering citizens of Zambia who deserve better leadership.”/SM
But when called for a comment, Chitotela, who is also Pambashe PF member of parliament, said: “I don’t want to comment. I will wait for the Speaker’s ruling.”/