Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president Eddie Mwitwa says if the Constitution Amendment Bill happens to pass in the House, there is still hope of stopping it through the courts of law once it is an Act of Parliament.
And Mwitwa says Bill 10 should be a campaign issue in 2021 whereby Zambians should vote for a party which is capable of upholding and protecting the Constitution.
Meanwhile, Transparency International Zambia executive director Wesley Chibamba says Zambia is likely to become a one party dictatorship if Bill 10 is passed into law.
Speaking during a joint press briefing by ActionAid Zambia, Alliance for Community Action (ACA), Caritas, Chapter One Foundation, Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CiSCA), Centre for trade Policy and Development (CTPD) and Transparency International Zambia (TIZ), Mwitwa said there was an opportunity to go back to court if Bill 10 was passed.
“…but assuming third reading comes and the bill is enacted into law, what for me gives me hope is that when the Constitutional Court delivered its judgement on Friday regarding our petition and the Chapter One Foundation petition, if I heard the court correctly, they were saying they have the jurisdiction to declare an act of Parliament unconstitutional. Different interpretations have been given on the effect of an act that amends the constitution whether that act can be declared unconstitutional when it becomes part and parcel of the constitution. We are hoping that the court, in the full judgement, that we hope will be released to the public and the parties to those petitions soon, will explain in detail how that is possible to challenge an act of parliament that amends the Constitution. So there is an opportunity for us to go back to court. So I have spoken to our lawyers, they are more than willing to go back to court if that Bill 10 becomes law and to challenge the constitutionality or legality of the act that will ensue from Bill 10,” Mwitwa said.
“We must remember that we are here because the bill is not yet law and tomorrow, what we understand is that it will come up for second reading. So tomorrow is for me is crucial, to see what the majority of the members of parliament are thinking about this bill. If the majority vote for it, the two thirds majority, there is still the third reading to come and we believe that the fight will not be lost tomorrow, we can still appeal to the conscious of our members of parliament to do the right thing even when the third reading comes about, we are hoping it doesn’t have to get there.”
Mwitwa called on lawyers, who are also members of parliament, to ensure that they uphold their duty to the constitution by rejecting the bill.
“Our duty when we are called to the bar is to preserve, protect and promote the Constitution. That is the solemn oath that we take when we decide to join this noble profession and our appeal to the members of LAZ who are also members of parliament is that they will forever remember what their duty to the Constitution is and their duty to the people of Zambia to defend, preserve and protect the Constitution of Zambia. And our appeal is, as they do their duty in Parliament and participate in the debate and voting on this bill, we appeal to them to remember that their duty to the cause of justice and the protection of the Constitution is much higher than their duty to the political parties that they represent. Unfortunately, they still exercise their right to have different opinions on different matters but as an association, we have come out and said we do not support this bill and we hope that they will take a similar stance when they go to parliament,” said Mwitwa.
“But over and above that, I think as citizens of this great republic, we must always remember that the power to elect leaders that we want to serve us remains always with us. 2021 is coming, if this bill becomes law, exercise your right to vote for people that you believe will preserve the interests of this nation and the interest of future generations and if your desire is that bill shouldn’t be law and your representatives in parliament vote for it, remember them when 2021 comes, it should be a campaign issue.”
And Chapter One Foundation executive director Linda Kasonde says the ConCourt’s judgement in the case of ex-ministers who illegally accrued salaries in 2016 bolstered her faith in the courts despite the same court’s ruling on Bill 10.
“I think first of all, it’s important to mention that judges are supposed to look at the case on a merit, they make decisions based on the evidence and the law that is submitted to them by the parties in proceedings and by the time they had submitted to parliament, that had not happened yet. Lot’s of people didn’t think that the court would give a favorable judgement but I am ever hopeful that judges can deliver a good judgement and my faith has been bolstered by the case of the ministers. When we took that case with LAZ, nobody thought we would get a positive judgement, so it’s always possible and it’s always important to try, we tried, we didn’t succeed now we move forward and we engage our MPs, we engage the public on this important issue,” said Kasonde.
Meanwhile, in the joint statement, the CSOs urged members of parliament to put the interest of the nation first.
“In summary, if Bill 10 passes, Zambia will most likely become a one-party dictatorship. Already, people are afraid of what the government, police and political party cadres will do to them if they try and stand up for their rights. If bill 10 passes there will be even more reason to be afraid. So, what is the solution? Bill No. 10 will be coming up for enactment on Tuesday 3rd December 2019. Our last hope is for our members of parliament to refuse to vote for the enactment of bill 10. We wish to remind our members of parliament that they have been elected by us, the people of Zambia, to protect our interests and to defend the constitutional provisions that we the people chose. We urge them to follow their conscience and ensure that our citizens and their democracy is protected,” read the statement.
“We understand that there have been efforts to entice members of parliament that will vote for bill 10. We want to directly speak to you who have either been already enticed or thinking of taking the carrot that may have been dangled in front of you.we urge all of you to resist this bill. To all our members of parliament we say, “don’t kubeba”! Do the right thing! Viva Zambia!”