The University of Zambia Lecturers’ and Researchers’ Union (UNZALARU) has called for the withdrawal of the three bills which were crafted by the National Dialogue Forum (NDF) because they have retrogressive provisions.

And UNZALARU says it will galvanize support against government if it does not listen to concerns of citizens over the said bills.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting at Mika Hotel in Lusaka, Monday, UNZALARU president Dr Evans Lampi said the union had rejected the proposal to amend Article 107 which provided for the removal of the Head of State on grounds of physical or mental capacity saying that clause should be preserved as it prevented the country from being led by ama fontini (illiterates).

“The University of Lecturers’ and Researchers’ Union (UNZALARU) joins other stakeholders in condemning provisions of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill. We have studied the contents of the Bill and call for the withdrawal of the Bill. Our position is informed by a number of retrogressive provisions that are contained in the Bill starting with those that affect our core constituency, the workers,” Dr Lampi said.

“The Bill seeks to amend Article 107 that provides for the removal of the president from office on grounds of physical or mental incapacity. We reject this proposal and call for the preservation of the current clause that protects the country from being led by ama fontini or people whose mental or physical capacity to perform the functions of the Office of the President is under serious questions and can be manipulated by a cabal within the ruling core.”

Dr Lampi said the proposal to merge the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) and the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) was aimed at completely abolishing the FIC which would undermine public accountability and transparency.

“The FIC has proved to be extremely effective while DEC has done very little in investigating high level corruption and money laundering. The proposed amendment is therefore aimed at abolishing the FIC as currently constituted since the statute that establishes the FIC would be made useless by the passage of this constitutional provision. It would also undermine public accountability and transparency,” Dr Lampi said.

He observed that the proposal to keep ministers and members of parliament in office until election day would cause unnecessary expenditure on the Treasury and allow MPs seeking re-election to campaign using public resources.

Dr Lampi also said UNZALARU rejected the suggestion to abolish Article 63 (2) which empowered the National Assembly to approve public debt before it was contracted and to sanction international agreements and treaties before they were acceded to.

And Dr Lampi said the idea to remove the maximum number of judges that the President could appoint to sit on the Supreme and Constitutional Court benches would compromise the independence of the judiciary.

“The Bill seeks to amend Article 124 and 127 to remove the maximum number of judges (13) that the president can appoint to sit on the Supreme Court and Constitution Court. It instead arrogates to parliament the power to prescribe the number of judges. We reject this proposal because it would compromise the independence of the judiciary as parliament in conjunction with the executive could decide to change the composition of judges at will,” said Dr Lampi.

“Many stakeholders were not included in that national dialogue forum. You cannot dialogue with yourself. That was a monologue. Just withdraw the Bill. After all it’s the same government which passed the 2016 Bill. How do you start you change the Constitution in 2016 and 2019 again you are changing it. You didn’t read your own Constitution?”

And speaking at the same meeting, UNZALARU general secretary Dr Kennedy Mambwe said the union would galvanize support against the PF government if it did not listen to their concerns.

“I think the citizens are watching the movement by government in trying to push this Bill through parliament. And it’s known that if government doesn’t listen to the people, people react otherwise. So it’s obvious that if for example, issues to do with our core constituents which are workers are ignored [or] our concerns are ignored, we will be left without an option to galvanize support against the ruling government because it means that they are not in interested in our welfare. They are not interested in the welfare of workers, they are not interested in the welfare of citizens because government in a democratic state is put by the people and it is the people that should dictate how that government should run. And in this case, we are calling upon government and MPs from both the ruling party and the opposition to think through some of these amendments because these amendments if they were to go through parliament and become law today, they will have serious repcutions,” said Dr Mambwe.

“And it is this decision that may go against them. If they refuse to withdraw it and they go ahead, it means they have not listened to the people and the people have the right to rise against them in one way or the other.”