University of Zambia (UNZA) political science lecturer Lee Habasonda has appealed to President Edgar Lungu not to assent to the National Dialogue Bill until it gains majority support from citizens.

And Habasonda has appealed to those commenting on the bill to do so from an informed position, rather than from a point of patronage.

The National Dialogue Bill which was passed, Tuesday evening, proposes to establish a forum that will make amendments to the 2016 Constitution, the Electoral Law and the Public Order Act.

It also dictates that all members of parliament shall be part of the forum, along with Church Mother-Bodies and civil society organisations. But the Church, 11 civil society organisations and opposition members of parliament have declined their membership to the forum, citing procedural impropriety among other irregularities.

Commenting on the Bill in an interview, Thursday, Habasonda advised President Lungu to consult other stakeholders before signing the Bill into law.

“Seeing that the Bill already passed in Parliament, I am going to appeal to President Lungu not to hurry in assenting the Bill so that we arrest any implications of this law. Because if that law is passed, while it is okay to pass a law, it is important to ensure that it has legitimacy, majority of the people and that it is in the best interest of the citizens. The fact that people are debating over it at the moment, the fact that there is contestation even outside Parliament means that the President needs to take his time and probably consult other actors outside Parliament before he can sign this law so that he’s convinced that it’s not only about political numbers but also it has the legitimacy of other actors who may not necessarily be part of the political alignment. So we can just appeal to him to delay the process until it is certain that this is thoroughly discussed because we think that it is being rushed, which rush is not really being explained,” Habasonda said.

“I think there was need for a bit more consultation. Government shouldn’t have hurried the process of the National Dialogue Forum Act because stakeholders required to understand its implications on the future of dialogue. One of the reasons why this country has had political tension is because we don’t handle the dialogue processes properly. In fact, often times, these processes are used to further political advantages by the parties involved and if this is going to take the same route of political expedience, I am afraid, it is not going anywhere although it may become law through PF’s numbers in Parliament. The law itself, as some commentators have observed, has not taken into account the right of individuals to dissent in the manner it has to be dissented.”

And Habasonda appealed to those commenting on the bill to do so from an informed position, rather than from a point of patronage.

“What is saddening is that in trying to enact this Bill, government and some of the people that support government have gone and started to demonise the institution of the Church. Secondly, what is worrisome is the manner in which our traditional leaders are speaking about the Bill. We would rather they take their time and understand the implications of this Bill so that they don’t risk misleading their subjects in the Kingdom where they hail. While everybody has the right to participate in these issues, my caution is that people must comment from an informed point of view, rather than echoing or just parroting what they have heard either from a political leader or from a political party that they support. Zambia has had laws that have not worked in the past because we have not paid attention to why certain laws are quickly pushed through only to end up being reversed in future,” said Habasonda.

“So the national dialogue process itself is very important and therefore, it must start with dialogue around the Act that government has out in place. Already this Act is being done in a manner that it has divided the political scene and when you are making a law in the midst of political polarisation, I don’t think that you can get the best results. We want a law that will be made, where both the ruling and opposition political actors agree that it is relevant for the future of the country. But if it is going to be part of the political contestation, I am afraid it will be a dead letter before we go far.”