Chief government spokesperson Dory Siliya says Government is surprised by manoeuvres taken by the Law Association of Zambia in trying to “undermine the Constitution Amendment Bill”.
LAZ on Monday dragged President Edgar Lungu, the Attorney General and the National Assembly to the constitutional Court for attempting to illegally alter the constitution of Zambia through bill 10, of 2019.
LAZ, which is represented in this case by Simeza, Sangwa Advocates went further to write the Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini, guiding him to halt the Parliamentary debate on Bill 10 which passed First Reading on August 2, until the petition in the Constitutional Court is disposed off.
But during her weekly press briefing, Wednesday, Siliya said it was sad that government’s efforts to try and improve the Constitution were being undermined by some overzealous lawyers who were being dramatic about the issue in order to peddle politics for publicity’s sake.
“We have been hearing a small group of people going round and round the country and talking against the NDF (National Dialogue Forum). The NDF has been a long process since 2016; LAZ was represented at the NDF. Before the NDF, the Minister of Justice advertised so often for people to make submissions and people went to the NDF, including LAZ. Now we are extremely surprised as government because for example, the PF met and said ‘this we agreed with and this we don’t agree with’, as LAZ I know that they have not met as members to agree with what they don’t agree with and with what they agree with. All we have heard is that they have gone to court,” Siliya observed.
“But really as government, I think it is the Zambians that are saying there are some things in the Constitution that are not right; now how are we going to address those issues if it is not by coming together and saying what you agree with and what don’t you agree with? We know that in this country there are some lawyers whose job is always to want to peddle in politics, be in court for either self aggrandisement or seeking popularity from the public. For a constitution to be passed it needs members of parliament, so there must be a meeting where there are members of parliament; there must be a meeting where there are members of the church, they must be a meeting where there are NGOs, there must be a meeting where there are media representatives and that is what happened at the NDF. Now if people did not want make their contributions at the NDF where do they want to make them?”
She said government viewed the stance taken by LAZ as one which represented the interests of a few overzealous lawyers.
“For me I believe that the lawyers deal with these issues, but if parliament is aggrieved with courts, do they stop attending to the issues. You just don’t say ‘we won’t attend the NDF and then when it’s done you say we don’t like it, let us stop being dramatic. What is it that you don’t like so that we can attend to it? I think even up to now there is room for LAZ to say ‘this is what we don’t like’, it can’t be everything because those laws are made for the people of Zambia, so it can’t be everything. What is it you don’t like?” wondered Siliya.
“If the NDF says ‘we want deputy ministers’ the PF said ‘we don’t want deputy ministers’ I know even some LAZ members said they don’t want deputy ministers. But what is the position of LAZ as an association not just a few LAZ member saying we are doing this on behalf of LAZ. You see, democracy don’t just expect it from political parties. There must be democratic principles from families, in churches, in NGOS and in professional bodies, because if you want to demand democratic qualities from politicians but you yourselves your organisations are autocratic, it means it’s illogical, really. We want LAZ to call a meeting, then we will say ‘this is the position of an association’ not two, three overzealous persons.”
She said even if LAZ decided to go to court, ultimately, it was Parliament that was going to pass the Constitution Amendment Bill.
“People may go to court and they can do whatever, ultimately it is Parliament that has to address the constitution process, but Parliament and the government said no let us include other people, ‘the church, the media the Law association and other professional bodies, let us come together, ‘what don’t you agree with, what do you agree with we might not agree on everything, but at least let’s meet and discuss’, and that was done. Other said we will not go to NDF but now that they didn’t attend they want to be in the papers everyday, talking. I suppose that is what freedom of the press is all about. Other people can decide to waste other people’s time because ultimately its parliament that has to address the matter on behalf of the people of Zambia ultimately,” said Siliya.