FOREIGN Affairs Deputy Minister Effron Lungu has taken up Given Lubinda’s seat in Parliament following the departure of the Foreign Affairs Minister to the back bench.
Dr Lungu, who is also Chama South Patriotic Front (PF) member of Parliament, sat on the seat reserved for the Foreign Affairs minister throughout Parliamentary proceedings yesterday.
Mr Lubinda moved from the front bench reserved for Cabinet ministers to the back bench on Thursday, rousing interest from opposition law-maker Charles Kakoma, who sought to know whether the move was in order.
Yesterday, the Kabwata legislator sat on the backbench throughout the proceedings and came to Parliament driving himself in his personal vehicle, a Range Rover Sport.
This compelled Chembe member of Parliament (MMD) Mwansa Mbulakulima to rise on a point of order and ask in apparent jest why Dr Lungu appeared unhappy sitting where Mr Lubinda previously sat.
“Is Dr Lungu in order to sit there looking sad instead of smiling?” Mr Mbulakulima asked as the House roared into laughter.
But Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini said it is not his domain to ask members to look happy or not happy while in the House.
“The happiness or sadness of members of Parliament is not my jurisdiction,” Dr Matibini said to the amusement of the MPs.
Mr Mbulakulima continued: “Mr Speaker, in some cultures, some people rejoice over other people’s problems. Now, is my distant cousin in order not to look happy while sitting there (front bench)?” Mr Mbulakulima asked [pointing at Dr Lungu] as MPs laughed out loud.
In his ruling, Dr Matibini said: “It is not for me to ask members to look happy or sad, so I cannot make a ruling on this matter.”
Last December, Mr Lubinda was charged with some offences, including disloyalty, by the PF Central Committee and was asked to exculpate himself over allegations that he had been colluding with opposition parties to discredit his own party.
Chief Government spokesperson Kennedy Sakeni declined to discuss Mr Lubinda’s fate, saying he was not the appointing authority.
“I comment on policy, not on appointments. That is not my area,” Mr Sakeni said.
The PF central committee sat to deliberate on the matter and pass a verdict. But the verdict, which should have been passed today (February 23), has been deferred again, according to disciplinary committee chairperson Edgar Lungu.
Mr Lungu, who is also Home Affairs Minister, said a ‘tight’ party and Government calendar cannot allow the hearing to take place and a new date may be set soon.
“I can confirm that the hearing will not take place,” Mr Lungu said.
“Most of the central committee members who are supposed to attend the meeting will either be out on party functions in Mpongwe and Livingstone while others will be attending a national event, the N’cwala traditional ceremony in Eastern Province. It can’t take off.”
Mr Lungu said all parties to the matter have been informed about the shifting of date.
And Mr Lungu expressed confidence that the PF will sweep both the Mpongwe and Livingstone seats.
In Livingstone, the ruling party is fielding William Evans while in Mpongwe it has lined up Gabriel Namulambe. The MMD is fielding Miniva Mutesa while UNIP has lined up Ken Kuveya.
Mr Lubinda did not respond to a written query and neither did he respond to phone calls for a comment yesterday.