Speaker bans Ngoni headgear in parliament

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SPEAKER of the National Assembly, Nelly Mutti has sparked debate after barring Members of Parliament (MPs) from wearing the Ngoni traditional headgear (Umquele) in the House.

This decision, made ahead of the Ncwala ceremony today, has been met with mixed reactions, with some claiming discrimination.

Mutti has also suspended Lumezi member of parliament for wearing a chitenge (wrapper) in parliament in defiance of the House’s set dress code.

In a statement, the National Assembly clarified that the Speaker’s decision to bar MP’s from wearing the Umquele was based on Standing Order 206(1)(c), which dictates the type of traditional attire permitted within the House.

“I wish to advise that standing Order 206 (1) (c) of the National Assembly of
Zambia Standing Orders of 2021 is instructive on the kind of traditional attire
that is permissible, the provision allows Members to wear decent traditional
attire such as the Siziba,” Mutti said in the August house.

“I therefore, find that the wearing of the Ngoni traditional head gear in the
house was inappropriate in accordance with the Standing Orders. Therefore, I
will not permit henceforth with any Honourable Member to continue wearing such attire in the house. For the Members who are already in that attire, please withdraw from the House to take your attire outside.

The Speaker’s ruling had been challenged by some, who argue that it unfairly targets a specific cultural expression. They claim it undermines cultural inclusivity and respect for diverse traditions.

The National Assembly maintains that the Speaker’s decision is not discriminatory and simply enforces existing dress code regulations.

Senior media liaison officer at the National Assembly of Zambia, Nshamba Muzungu emphasized that the Speaker’s role is to uphold these rules and ensure decorum.

He stressed that other forms of traditional attire, like the Siziba, are still permitted under the Standing Orders.

“The Assembly urges the public to refrain from making “misleading and alarming statements” about parliamentary proceedings, as this can constitute contempt.

Meanwhile, the speaker suspended Munir Zulu from the house for seven sitting days for grossly disorderly conduct after he wore a chitenge in the national assembly this morning.

Mutti said Zulu deliberately defied the rules of the house by wearing a wrapper (Chitenge) over his suit even after guidance was given yesterday concerning the headgear.

Zulu is not new to suspension as he has passed through similar cases on numerous occasions.

By Moses Makwaya

Kalemba February 24, 2024

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