National Dialogue Forum (NDF) spokesperson Isaac Mwanza has disclosed that government has proposed a total of 78 amendments to the Republican Constitution at the ongoing Forum, which will be up for consideration beginning tosay (Tuesday).

Meanwhile, Mwanza says the number of people attending the forum has continued to drop because the secretariat is sending away those who are not meant to attend.

At a media briefing, Monday, Mwanza said government had proposed to keep ministers in office after dissolution of parliament.

“At this stage, no resolution has been adopted by the main Forum for feeding into the main Bills. We expect that the adopted resolutions from the Siavonga resolution will be made at the end of the day via consensus and if consensus fails on some issues, it will be subjected to secret ballot. An example of the issue where consensus has not been there is the [increased] time to hear the Presidential petition to 30 days. This matter has been deferred to a later time when the Forum is going to adopt via the secret ballot. But beginning tomorrow (Tuesday), we expect the members to begin considering amendments to the Constitution. Government has proposed 78 amendments to the Constitution, which include the merger of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court, providing for the continuation of ministers [stay in office] after Parliament has been dissolved, the hearing of the Presidential petition to be heard and determined within 30 days, the introduction of a clause to recognise and withdraw the recognition of chiefs,” Mwanza said.

And when asked why the number of people attending the Forum had continued to drop, Mwanza said the secretariat wanted to ensure that only the right people attended the Forum.

“On the first day, there was a huge turnout of about 750 people wanting to attend. But we need to ensure that the Act is implemented fully and by deliberate measures, we have begun to send away those who are not supposed to attend. But members of the public are allowed to attend as observers. There is no limit as to how many people can come in and attend the deliberations, listen to them as observers, as long as they do what the Act provides. They must give notice to the secretariat and they must be accredited and they must never interrupt or even threaten any member of parliament to deliberate. So, by this reduction, we just want to assure that the people who are attending are those that are provided for in the Act of Parliament,” Mwanza said.

“But we want to inform those who have actually stayed away that there is still an opportunity for them to come and attend and become part and parcel of the decision-making process of crafting these Bills and the resolutions. Everybody is debating freely; there is nothing like ‘I am a PF member of parliament.’ If you are members of parliament, you coming here as members of parliament and not as a party representative. Even when it comes to voting, everybody will be free to vote based on their conscience. This Forum is meant to protect what the Zambian people have stated. And our belief is that our members who are attending will stand by what the Zambian people have stated.”

Meanwhile, Mwanza said 38 UPND members of parliament had written to the Chairperson of the Forum Professor Mulunda Mwanalushi, asking for interpretation on whether it was mandatory for MPs to attend the controversial Dialogue Forum or not.

“So far, we have 126 members of parliament out of 167, 16 of whom are from UPND. We also have other political parties with representation in Parliament and all the independent members are in attendance. We have eight representatives of the Church Mother Bodies; two of them are coming from the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) and the civil society organisations. 38 UPND members have written to the Forum, asking to be guided whether they can stay away or it is mandatory for them to attend. The response will be given to them during the course of this week. They have given their own reasons for not wanting to attend the Forum. The matter has been sent to the standing committee, which has been constituted. The law is very clear on who is supposed to attend and what happens when people do not attend. We expect that the law will be implemented as it is. But that is a matter, which we are going to brief you to tomorrow (Tuesday) once the letters have been delivered to the members of parliament. Because they’ve been asking actually to say: ‘when are we getting our responses’,” said Mwanza.

“We have also received a letter from the member of parliament for National Democratic Congress (NDC) member of parliament, who has written to excuse himself from attending the Forum because he has not been sworn in as a member of parliament yet. Yes, the Bahati PF member is in attendance. But what we are reporting to you is that the member of parliament wrote to say: ‘I have not been sworn in’ and he feels because he has not been sworn in, he may not want to attend. The Bahati member, if in attendance, we have not received any communication on that. But this is a matter, which the standing committee will look at in responding to the member of the NDC and what the law might say on it.”