Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini has appealed to all MPs to be civil in parliament, having noted with concern that MPs are increasingly resorting to the use of abusive language and threats of physical violence. He pointed out that not only does this conduct offend the rules of the house, but it also undermines its decorum and dignity.

It all started rather innocently this week with PF Roan MP Chishimba Kambwili asking Vice-President Inonge Wina a question in parliament. Kambwili wanted to find out why Chinese firms are allowed to engage in brick-making, when government has restricted such business to Zambians, and why they are renovating ministers’ houses.

This apparently upset PF Mpulungu MP and Minister of Presidential Affairs Freedom Sikazwe, resulting in a row between the two. Then UPND Monze MP Jack Mwiimbu got involved, raising a point of order on whether or not Sikazwe was out of order in threatening Kambwili for merely asking a question, after which Matibini ordered all MPs to be civil.

However, this did not stop Sikazwe, who continued to heap abuse on Kambwili, leading to UPND Mazabuka MP Garry Nkombo raising another point of order, upsetting Sikazwe even more, who turned around and called either Kambwili, Mwiimbu, Nkombo or all three of them “stupid” (uko ku tumpa), before walking out while shouting “you dog!” (wembwawe). Kambwili responded by calling Sikazwe ‘‘brainless” and “childish’’, telling the media that Sikazwe had earlier threatened that government would destroy Kambwili’s business empire.

In the meantime, PF Kabwe MP Tutwa Ngulube was passing running commentaries on the whole thing, which angered Nkombo so much that he challenged Ngulube to a physical fight outside parliament.

Later in the week, Matibini delivered ruling on another point of order raised by Kambwili back in December 2016, when he asked whether Chief Whip Richard Musukwa was correct not to cite the Daily Nation for contempt of the house for misrepresenting facts. The newspaper had claimed that Kambwili “went vile” in parliament, “openly threatened to physically beat” Copperbelt Minister Bowman Lusambo, and called him “a small boy who was not a member of the PF” (argument in full can be read here).

Matibini ruled that Kambwili had been out of order for using offensive and un-parliamentary language, but that the Daily Nation had “embellished” its article “with opinion and expressions that were not part of what transpired in the house”, confirming that Kambwili had not threatened to beat up Lusambo.

It was at this stage that Matibini appealed to all MPs to think of the dignity of the house: “I have always guided that if a member is provoked by another, correct procedure should be employed to bring the member’s conduct in line”.