Minister of Justice Given Lubinda says the Constitution of Zambia Amendment Bill of 2018 will be presented to Parliament in the June/July sitting.

Meanwhile, Lubinda says there isn’t enough basis to warrant the suspension of the Constitution despite various lacunas and inconsistencies.

Responding to a question from Mazabuka UPND member of parliament Garry Nkombo who wanted to know when the Constitution Amendment Bill to address the lacunas in the Constitution would be presented to the National Assembly and what had caused the delay in presenting the Bill, Lubinda said government wanted to comply with Article 79 of the Constitution which required the amendment bill to be published for 30 days before being presented.

“The Constitution of Zambia Amendment Bill 2018 will be ready for tabling in Parliament during the June/July 2018 sitting. Sir, as to why the Bill has been delayed, government has not delayed in the presenting of the Bill only that owing to a number of factors such as the complexity of the business of the refining of the Constitution, sufficient time is required in order to facilitate the necessary drafting, expert review, publication and finally tabling of the Constitution. Honorable Speaker, as you may be aware, I am on record stating that it will only be ready for tabling in Parliament in June. This is in order to comply with Article 79 of the Constitution which requires an amendment of the Constitution to be published for 30 days before introduction in Parliament and also to allow government to subject the draft to expert review before it is tabled,” Lubinda said.

“Let me seize this opportunity sir to inform the House and the nation at large that the Ministry of Justice is in the process of finalizing the draft Bill and they are examining the submissions that were made from various stakeholders in order to take them into account, to the extent possible in addressing inconsistencies identified in the Constitution. This process is currently taking place and the team is expected to conclude the process this Friday.”

In a follow-up question, Nkombo wondered whether Lubinda would entertain a private member’s amendment bill if government failed meet their deadlines.

“Would you entertain a private member’s Bill as long as they give that 30-day requirement to come to this House and do the amendments for as long as we are in agreement?” asked Nkombo.

In response, Lubinda expressed confidence that the Bill would be published by May and presented to he House by June but told Nkombo that he had the constitutional right to move a private bill provided it met all the requirements.

“I want to assure honorable Nkombo and the nation at large that everything being equal, and as I stand here today, I am confident that in May, we will publish the amendment bill to allow the one month so that as we come to Parliament in June/July, we would have achieved the one month time that is required. Now whether it is possible for us to sit as political players, I want to say sir that unfortunately, for submissions of that nature, the train left the train station. However, for members of parliament, we in government see value in us as parliamentarians sitting together, away from Parliament and interrogating all the proposed amendments so that we are able to arrive at consensus so that when we come to Parliament, it is all systems go. This is what government is working towards…on whether members of parliament are allowed to move amendments provided the 30 days is given, precisely, that is provided for in the Constitution. Any member of parliament is at liberty and if honorable Nkombo has some particular article that he would like to propose an amendment to, he is at liberty to do that and I am sure that for him to do that, he would have to lobby all of us in the House so that he garners the two thirds majority. That is also my hope that I will be able to lobby, together with my friends in government, that we will lobby everyone in parliament so that we can achieve the two thirds majority that is required for us to amend the Constitution so that it is more clear and the articles are consistent,” Lubinda said adding that the process was being carried out in a very transparent manner.

Meanwhile, Roan PF member of parliament Kambwili asked Lubinda to consider suspending the “defective” Constitution until all the lacunas were dealt with.

“Your government and everyone is aware that we are using a defective Constitution which has got ambiguities, why can’t you suspend this Constitution so that these ambiguities and lacunas are addressed? Because in the process, there will be casualties like you and I are casualties of a decision as a result of the ambiguities concerning remaining in office. There will be more people who are going to be casualties in the process,” said Kambwili.

In response, Lubinda said it was better to refine the Constitution than to suspend it adding that as a country, lessons had been learnt on putting a Constitution to test.

“The Constitution was passed in this House. Quite a number of us here happened to have been in the House then. And I have said before that I don’t think that it is a matter that can be used to wage any difference or to put a wage between any political divide. We have gone through that, we know why we are here and we have got to accept that all of us as a nation, accepted a Constitution that later on became clear that it had inconsistencies and lacunas, we ought to accept that. Having passed that Constitution as Parliament, and the Constitution having received presidential assent, there is no reason why we should suspend it when it possible for us to refine it. And I have indicated that by June, in the June/July sitting, we will present an amendment bill to refine that constitution. Yes, there may be people who may be considered casualties as a result of the Constitution, there may also be others who are benefitting from the inconsistency in this Constitution and all those people will have to be borne in mind when we finally refine the Constitution but I don’t think that there is enough merit to warrant suspension of the 2016 Constitution,” said Lubinda.

“I think there is more merit in us refining it while we are still moving with it and as a matter of fact sir, some of these inconsistencies and lacunas were identified because the Constitution has been put to a test. Hadn’t it been put to a test, we wouldn’t have identified these inconsistencies and lacunas. So I think it has been time well spent, the inconsistencies have taught us lessons and let its learn from the results of testing the constitution.”