Peoples’ Alliance for Change (PAC) president Andyford Banda has suggested the formation of a non-partisan movement to block the enactment of proposals made by the National Dialogue Forum for the amendment of the Constitution.

And Banda says some proposals, such as allowing members of parliament to remain in office until the day of elections, will only advantage the ruling party and serving lawmakers.

The National Dialogue Forum (NDF) on Wednesday evening adopted the Constitution of Zambia, Electoral Process and Public Order draft amendment Bills of 2019 for possible enactment by Parliament before it finally closed after 16 days of deliberations.

However, in a statement yesterday, Banda said Zambians should stand up and defend the Republican Constitution by shooting down the proposed amendments made at the National Dialogue Forum.

“As a party, our route was not to shun this process, we hoped our opposing voice together with other reasonable minds would minimize the damage to the Constitution but that was not enough. There are a lot of questionable and unnecessary proposals that this country cannot afford to put in the Constitution. The main issues that were supposed to be addressed by this forum such as the Public Order Act and the Electoral Process Act have been silent . And yet, issues that cannot be decided by a few individuals such as the number of constitutional amendments are the ones that are allowed,” Banda said.

“Let’s remember that these proposals are not yet law. We have an opportunity to ensure that they are not enacted. You must also remember that no one is going to stand up for you, you have to defend your constitution. This is not a PAC or any other party’s constitution; we must all take it personal. We also want to advise that it is not fair for a few individuals to enact a constitution that is positioning them to continue ruling. Therefore, I would like to call upon the people of Zambia to come together and form a non-partisan movement to defend the constitution,” Banda stated.

He said proposals such as allowing members of parliament to remain in office until the day of elections will only advantage the ruling party and serving lawmakers.

“Under the current economic conditions, and having passed and survived the issue of deputy ministers, why would any right thinking individual think of bringing them back? The question we should ask is; ‘what is the motive?’ Why should parliament be dissolved on election day? Isn’t that giving an advantage to sitting MPs and government during elections? How will that ensure that all players are on the same level of competition? Why should a few individuals decide whether a coalition government is suitable or not? These plus other controversial proposals must be fought,” said Banda.

The NDF, which was initially supposed to sit for only eight days was extended for six more days in two stages to allow delegates to exhaust their arguments on the amendments.

During the closing ceremony at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre, Wednesday, NDF secretary Patrick Chisanga gave an update on the number of amendments that had been proposed to the current Constitution.

“As you may be aware, the mandate of the forum was to facilitate the implementation of resolutions that were made on 12th June, 2018, in Siavonga by Secretaries-General of political parties relating to Constitutional and institutional reforms. The forum was further mandated to facilitate the Constitutional refinement process and regulation of political parties, public order and electoral process reforms. I am pleased to inform you that the forum has adopted the following proposed laws for possible enactment by Parliament: The draft Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill, 2019; the draft Electoral Process (Amendment) Bill, 2019; the draft Public Order Bill, 2019,” Chisanga said.

He also highlighted the amendments that the forum made to the Constitution Bill of 2019.

“The forum has revised the preamble to confirm that indeed Zambia remains a Christian nation by removing the words multi religious; Adopted the principle for formation of coalition government where if the candidates fail to reach the 50% plus one threshold provided the parties to a coalition government manage to galvanize the total of 50 percent plus one; Confirm that the National Assembly shall only dissolve at the date of the general election to allow members of parliament complete their full five-year term…Provide for entry of women and marginalized groups in Parliament and councils through the mixed member electoral system; affirm our people’s right to freedom of conscience by removing Section 9 clause 1 of the Public Order Bill which penalized people who refuse to sing the national anthem. This means that it is not mandatory for any group to sing the national anthem except at public functions,” he explained.

“This forum has also revised the period for hearing of a presidential petition to 30 calendar days from the 14 days; provide for the appointment of deputy Ministers; further, civil servants intending to seek political office must resign from their jobs two years before elections.”

On the draft Electoral Process Bill, 2019, the forum proposed the reduction of the election campaign period from three to two months.

“On the draft Electoral Process Bill, the forum proposed that the campaign period for a general election be reduced from three months to 60 days. The forum also resolved that the independent candidates should select their symbols from the list made available by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ). The forum also proposed that the Commission should publish the election time table in a national wide circulation in addition to the gazette and the provision of a coalition government,” said Chisanga

“On the Public Oder Bill, 2019, the following proposed amendments have been made: Provide for the enjoyment of the right of freedom of assemble and association; Regulate the conduct of public gatherings for the preservation of public order. We wish to assure you that in the process of validating and refining the Bills, has been very open and transparent as you may be aware that all the proceedings were live on Parliament radio and TV. The process has just started as I indicated earlier on that this is work in progress, the Bills will then go to parliament where they will be enacted into law. As a forum, we have completed our task and the resolutions have since been adopted as you have witnessed.”