His case highlights a problem with our constitution: The police have charged UPND Chilanga MP Keith Mukata and his wife Charmaine Musonda with the murder of security guard Namakau Kwenda at Mukata’s law firm, AKM Legal Practitioners in Lusaka. The pair was warned and cautioned last week. Some reports claimed the couple was having a row, while others said armed robbers were to blame, but the police provided no further details.

Mukata will remain in custody, as murder is a non-bailable offence, while his wife has been admitted to a private hospital for an undisclosed ailment. His incarceration raises a few questions, as the new constitution says nothing about what should happen to his parliamentary seat as the slow wheels of the judiciary are set into motion. If we were still governed by our old constitution, Mukata would lose his seat after six months in detention. However, this is not included in the new constitution:

Article 72 (2) of the new constitution states that the office of a MP becomes vacant if the member resigns or is expelled from his party, ceases to be a citizen, breaks a prescribed code of conduct, is disqualified for election in accordance with Article 70 (which in this case involves taking up another public office, being sentenced to jail, developing a mental disorder or being declared bankrupt), is disqualified as a result of a ruling of the Constitutional Court, or dies.

Thus, taking all this into consideration, Mukata’s seat will only fall vacant if he is sentenced to prison, or if he decides to step down. However, his case may drag out for years, leaving Chilanga without parliamentarian representation.