Transparency International Zambia chapter president Rueben Lifuka says he hopes the Constitutional Court will perform its role without fear or favour in the matter in which the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) has dragged the President and two others to court for attempting to illegally alter the Constitution of Zambia through Bill 10, 2019.

And Lifuka has noted that a constitution making process that excludes any section of society, no matter how small, is bound to fail.

On Monday, LAZ, which is being represented by Simeza, Sangwa and Associates, cited the President of the Republic of Zambia, the Attorney General and the National Assembly as first, second and third respondents respectively.

Simeza, Sangwa and Associates also wrote to the Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini informing him that Amendment Bill No.10 should not be discussed any further in the House as it is before court.

In this matter, LAZ has petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking a declaration that the respondents’ decision and the extent to which they seek to amend the Constitution in the manner set in the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill No. 10 of 2019, is illegal because it contravenes Articles 1(2), 8, 9, 61, 79, 90,91, 92 and 79 of the Republican Constitution.

Commenting on LAZ’s decision to challenge Bill 10 in court, Lifuka said legitimacy of any constitution should be derived from the wider acceptability of the process and the final product.

“Transparency International Zambia takes note of the resolve by the Law Association of Zambia, in exercise of its functions, to petition the Constitutional Court seeking a declaration that the respondents’ decision and the extent to which it seeks to amend the Constitution in the manner set in the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill No 10 of 2019 is illegal. LAZ joins several other organisations, including Transparency International Zambia, that have expressed considerable concern in the manner that the PF Government has been proceeding with the intended amendments to the Constitution. It is our fervent hope that the Constitutional Court will perform its role as a final arbiter on constitutional matters, fairly and without fear or favour,” Lifuka stated in response to a press query.

“Constitution making should never be the prerogative of the government or the ruling party but this should be driven by the expectations and demands of the people. The constitution is not about the politicians but the people and it is our desire that the sovereignty of the people will be respected in this ongoing process. The preamble of the current constitution is instructive as it affirms that ‘We the people of Zambia’ not only commit ourselves to upholding the principles of democracy and good governance, but in the final act, we ‘do hereby solemnly adopt and give to OURSELVES th(is) constitution.’ Any constitution making process that leaves out any section of society – regardless of whether this section is the majority or minority, is bound to fail.”

He noted that failure by successive governments to embrace everyone’s views was what was perpetuating problems in the constitutional reform process.

“The challenges that the current constitutional reform process is facing are similar to the ones faced in the past and this is mainly because successive governments have tried to take control of the process with the aim of promoting narrow political interests. Our constitutional history is full of failures or incomplete processes, simply because political considerations have superseded public considerations in the reform process. The many controversial and retrogressive proposed amendments in Bill No 10, demonstrates the folly of giving premium to political considerations to the exclusion of all others. It is inevitable that the PF government takes heed of the various concerns about the ongoing constitution reform process or else we are headed towards similar failure of the past,” Lifuka stated.

“The onus is on the PF Government to design a process that allows all views to be heard and attended to. As far as we are concerned, there is nothing that legally prevents the PF Government, with the leave of the House, from withdrawing the Bill, in order to facilitate consensus building. The arrogance that is currently being expressed by some PF leaders is not going to lead us to the development of a durable and widely accepted constitution – a constitution that commands the respect and obedience of all Zambians. It is this same lack of consensus building on critical matters that saw the failure of the referendum on the proposed expanded Bill of Rights. As a country, we have spent so much money and time on constitution reforms and it is important that this time around, we do the right thing and get a durable constitution. This process should not be about the PF or UPND or the opposition, civil society or any other stakeholders – it should be about the people of Zambia. This should not be a contest about who is right or wrong – this should be about doing the right thing for the people of this great country. The question which we should ask ourselves at the end of the day is: do we have a good constitutional order that not only promotes democracy and good governance, but equally serves as a catalyst for socio-economic development of the country?”

He stated that the action taken by LAZ was inevitable.

“We therefore consider the LAZ action as inevitable under the present circumstances where the PF government remains adamant and fails to do the honourable thing – namely withdraw Bill No 10. This action can be avoided with the withdrawal of the Bill and with the design of a good process, which facilitates consensus building. The PF government should be reminded that a people-led constitution reform process is one that will produce a durable constitution and Zambians are more than capable of giving to themselves such a constitution. The PF Government is merely a midwife in this process and it is expected to confine itself to that role only,” stated Lifuka.