Veteran politician Vernon Mwaanga says although he does not fully support the National Dialogue Forum, it may help to resolve critical outstanding issues that have caused challenges for the nation.
And Mwaanga says the NDF can be helpful in resolving the conflict of jurisdiction between the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Mwaanga says the forum may also help to fine tune the law so that only individuals who have been members of parliament can be elected as Speaker of the National Assembly.
In a statement, Monday, Mwaanga said the proposal to merge the Supreme Court with the Constitutional Court as one of the progressive proposals.
“I am not wedded to the National Dialogue Forum (NDF), but I support a few of the things being suggested by the government in terms of amendments to the Constitution of Zambia. My enthusiastic support is reserved for the proposal to merge the Supreme Court with the Constitutional Court. My criticism of the Constitutional Court has been consistently consistent since its formation. I have been scathing in my criticism of the lack of bench experience for some of the judges appointed to the ConCourt, which has been given so much power to preside over Constitutional matters, whose outcome cannot be appealed. It has been my considered view that this is dangerous for the country and its citizens. In the past, Presidential election petitions were being heard by a full bench of Supreme Court judges, consisting of very senior and experienced judges and this gave enormous confidence to the petitioners. A merger of the two Courts if done properly will bring this confidence and judicial sanity back. The manner in which the ConCourt handled the last Presidential petition, was less than satisfactory, to put it mildly and grossly undermined public confidence in the ConCourt. Let us learn best practices from some of our neighbours like South Africa, where Supreme Court judges sit to adjudicate on Constitutional matters,” Mwaanga said.
“There are other issues the amended Constitution needs to urgently accommodate, such as the increased representation of women in Parliament and Local Councils. Statistics of registered voters clearly show that female voters constitute the majority. Why then should we treat our women so unfairly? The National Constitutional Conference (NCC), which was set up by President Levy Mwanawasa through an Act of Parliament, had addressed this matter and agreed on a mixed member National Assembly, where in addition to the women who are elected under the current system, we would have separate seats for women alone who would contest against each other using a proportional representation system (PR). There was also supposed to be three youths and two persons living with disabilities. For some unexplained reasons, these important provisions were curiously omitted from the final draft Constitution which was presented to Parliament in 2016. It is politically and morally wrong to continue paying lip-service to both SADC and AU declarations and protocols on gender equality. One just has to look at what countries like Rwanda and South Africa have achieved in the area of gender equality. Let us show seriousness for a change, in addressing this burning issue.”
And Mwaanga said the forum could also fine tune the law so that only individuals who had been members of parliament could be elected as Speaker.
“There are other areas which also require fine tuning in our National Constitution such as qualifications for the Speaker of the National Assembly, who must have served as a Member of Parliament for a minimum of five years. Parliament is for Parliamentarians; Giving powers to the Electoral Commission of Zambia , to disqualify candidates of political parties which practice election violence. This will serve as a warning to political parties to desist from practicing violence during elections. Violence even at any other time is abominable and has no place in a democratic society. Leaders of all political parties have a duty to condemn and impose severe sanctions against their members who indulge in violence: Transformation of the current Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), into a truly Independent Electoral Commission, in which stakeholders will truly have confidence : I talk to many young people across the political divide, who want to participate in elective Parliamentary office and what i find disturbing is that they all want to go and stand in their home enclaves,” stated Mwaanga.
“How are we going to decisively defeat tribalism if people seeking Parliamentary office only feel safe to stand in their tribal areas? This question begs an answer. What has happened to the spirit of One Zambia, One Nation, when people like myself, Sikota Wina and many others stood and got elected to Parliament from Provinces other than their own tribal areas? Perhaps the time has come for our leaders to look at alternative Electoral systems for electing members of Parliament, such as Proportional Representation or a mixture of both to defuse what I see as growing primitive trends of tribalism in our great country. I believe that it is prudent to start a constructive national debate about this subject. Zambians are not tribal and only look for good representatives, regardless of where they come from . We don’t hear of our citizens fighting each other in our townships across Zambia , on the basis of tribe. They live in peace, love and harmony with another. You just have to look at the ever growing number of Inter-marriages taking place all over the our country. It is some of our shallow minded politicians who are constantly shooting their mouths and bringing up the ugly evil of tribalism, which has no place in our country.”