Law Association of Zambia president Eddie Mwitwa has charged that the proposed Constitution Amendment Bill has been structured to allow gerrymandering, a deliberate ploy by the party in power to manipulate the boundaries of an electoral constituency so as to gain political advantage over other parties.
And Mwitwa says since the Constitution Amendment Bill does not stipulate the number of judges that should constitute the courts, it presents the possibility that successive governments can interfere with the composition of the courts to suit their sectional interests.
The LAZ president further opposed the proposal to introduce a coalition government, saying it cannot work in the Zambian “President system”.
In a statement, Mwitwa expressed concern that the Constitution Amendment Bill created parliament without stating the number of members of parliament that would form the House, leaving that determination to an Act of Parliament.
“I have noted with grave concern the proposed amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Zambia. I have noted that the Constitution Amendment Bill creates Parliament but does not prescribe the number of members of parliament and leaves this very important task of stipulating the number of members of parliament to an Act of Parliament,” Mwitwa said.
“In essence, Parliament has been empowered to create itself. This is anomalous as Parliament is a creature of the Constitution and its composition cannot be left to an Act of Parliament. Additionally, in most jurisdictions, the integrity of elections is negatively impacted by the creation of Parliamentary constituencies in strongholds of one political party or another. This is technically called ‘gerrymandering’ and it is a matter that raises serious concerns where ever it rears its head.”
He also said the Constitution Amendment Bill should have been clear on the number of judges who constitute the courts.
“I also note that the Constitution Amendment Bill does not stipulate the number of judges that should constitute the courts and this presents the possibility that successive governments can interfere with the composition of the courts to suit their sectional interests. I must end by emphasising that the Constitution should be made to stand the test of time and must not be tailored to suit the present interests of any section of society. It must fit the needs of all the Zambian people for a long time to come,” Mwitwa said, further condemning the proposal for a coalition government.
“The issue of a coalition government in a presidential system such as ours is very curious because coalition governments are only workable in a parliamentary system where the head of the Executive is chosen from Parliament. In a Parliamentary system, the people therefore elect political parties who in turn elect a leader to lead the political party in power and consequently the government. In Zambia, the people elect their President directly and to give the political parties the choice of selecting a President for the people of Zambia through a deal made between them would be to rob the people of Zambia a chance to elect their President. It is these and other issues that raise serious concerns over which the LAZ Council will be deliberating and issuing a comprehensive statement in due course.”
Mwitwa expressed concern that amendments such as the reintroduction of deputy ministers and formation of a coalition government would work against the country.
“The cry of most Zambians has been to reduce the blotted government expenditure so that the savings realised can be applied to improve service delivery to the majority poor. It is of concern therefore, that the amendments seek to reintroduce the position of Deputy Ministers which will increase expenditure,” Mwitwa stated.