President Edgar Lungu says no one will be allowed to make new submissions at the ongoing national dialogue forum, explaining that participants are expected to only provide clarifications or inputs from the earlier submissions.

And President Lungu says government is expecting that the recommendations generated during the National Dialogue Forum will culminate into widely acceptable amendments to the various Bills contained in the document.

Speaking during the official opening of the forum in Lusaka, Thursday, President Lungu said the national dialogue forum was a quality assurance validation forum and therefore, “we do not expect new submissions”.

“We are expected to provide inputs or clarifications on earlier submissions which were made. This is in order to refine our constitution and governance-related legislation such as the Public Order Act, Electoral Process Act and the Political Parties Bill. As you may recall, the Constitution amendment process commenced after Parliament approved a private member’s motion in Parliament urging government to amend the Constitution of Zambia cap 1, of the laws of Zambia in order to address the inconsistencies in the constitution. Following this approval, government called for submissions from stakeholders such as civil society organisations, government institutions such as the judiciary and commissions, statutory bodies, professional bodies and individuals,” President Lungu recounted.

“The Ministry of Justice collated the submissions after which a zero draft Constitution of Zambia (amendment) Bill was prepared. The draft was then subjected to further scrutiny by various institutions, including the judiciary, the National Assembly, cabinet office, Ministry of Justice, the National Prosecution Authority, legal aid, Office of the President and other relevant line ministries. In line with the Constitutional requirements, the Bill was approved by Cabinet for introduction in parliament for possible amendment. However, in 2018, government was requested to defer the publication of the Bill by the Zambia Centre for Inter-Party Dialogue (ZCID). This was to enable political parties and the Church Mother Bodies to finalise the dialogue process which had commenced. This forum has, therefore, been constituted to validate the draft constitution, before it can be introduced in parliament.”

Pesident Lungu further disclosed that going forward, the government remained committed to the Constitutional amendment process, as well as the continuous dialogue among all Zambians.

Meanwhile, President Lungu said government anticipated that the recommendations generated during the forum would culminate into widely acceptable amendments to the Bills contained in the document.

“Cabinet approved the national dialogue (Constitution, Electoral process, Public Order and Political Parties) Bill 2019, in order to provide a legal framework for the dialogue process. The bill was approved by Parliament on 4th April, 2019 and I assented to it on 9th April, 2019. As we validate the draft Constitution over the next 10 days, I urge you to fully commit yourselves to this important national assignment which has been bestowed on us by the people of Zambia. I also wish to urge you to acquaint yourselves with the contents of the national dialogue. To be precise, the Constitution, Electoral Process, Public Order and political parties Act no. 6 of 2019, the Constitution of Zambia (amendment) Bill, 2019, the electoral process (amendment) Bill, 2019, the public order (amendment) bill, 2019, and the political parties’ Bill, 2019 so that our contributions to this process are concise. Government anticipates that the recommendations generated during this forum will culminate into widely acceptable amendments to the said Bills,” said President Lungu.

And speaking earlier, Justice Minister Given Lubinda brief the President on how the ratification process of the Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and other leaders of the forum was conducted on Wednesday when the national dialogue forum opened.

“The delegates convened on Wednesday, 24th April and dealt with the business of ratifying the appointment of the forum chairperson and the election of the two forum vice chairpersons and the Spokesperson of the forum as well as the members of the standing committee. Your Excellency, I wish to report that the forum has representation from various representatives from political parties, Churches and other religious organisations, civil society organisations, government institutions and individuals, who all made submissions relating to the refinement of the Constitution and the review of the three pieces of governance related legislation dealing with the electoral process, political parties and public order. Your Excellency, I wish to report to you also that 16 of the UPND members of parliament are here today to be part of this process despite not having made submissions, I would like to commend and congratulate my colleagues from UPND for rising above partisan politics and deciding to be here with us today,” said Lubinda.

Delegates at the ongoing national dialogue forum yesterday unanimously agreed to allow for the ratification of Professor Muyunda Mwanalushi as Chairperson of the forum after his appointment by President Edgar Lungu.