The National Assembly has deferred the second reading of the Constitutional Amendment Bill number 10 of 2019 to the next legislative meeting of the 4th session of the 12th National Assembly scheduled to begin in February 2020.

This was after Acting Minister of Justice Stephen Kampyongo told the House that the Executive wished to set aside Bill 10 in order to give maximum attention to budget debates.

But Transparency International Zambia and National Democratic Congress party (NDC), among other stakeholders, have argued that the reasons advanced for deferment are frivolous, saying the Executive feared an embarrassing defeat.

When the motion came up for second reading, Wednesday, Kampyongo informed Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Catherine Namugala that the House needed to conclude debates and approve the 2020 national budget before it could adjourn sine die on December 18, 2019.

“Madam Speaker, with leave of the House, I beg to defer the consideration of the second reading stage of the bill to the legislative meeting scheduled to begin in February 2020. Madam, we are all aware that the 2020 budget must be approved by the House before it adjourns sine die on Wednesday 18th December, 2019. Between now and then, estimates of 19 ministries,departments and other spending agencies ought to be considered and passed by the House. In addition, the House must consider and enact money bills to support the budget. All these activities require a lot of time to allow the House consider them thoroughly. It is for this reason madam Speaker that I seek the indulgence of the House to defer the consideration of the bill to the second meeting of the 4th session of of the 12th National Assembly, Madam Speaker I beg to move,” said Kampyongo.

In response, Namugala granted leave to defer, as none of the members of the House objected.

But in a statement to News Diggers, TIZ chapter president Rueben Lifuka said PF deferred the bill in panic of an embarrassing defeat.

“The decision of the PF government to seek leave of the house to defer the second reading of Bill No 10 to the legislative session of 2020, is not shocking but was expected. While this decision allows government an opportunity to build consensus with various stakeholders, the argument for seeking leave is frivolous. It is shameful for government to claim it is deferring the Bill on grounds that there is a lot of budget business to pending before the House. The PF government are the ones who moved a motion to restore Bill 10 on the order paper, on Tuesday 3rd December 2019, and on 4th December, 2019, the same government and ruling party asks for a deferment- clearly the PF panicked and feared a devastating loss as it does not have the requisite two thirds majority vote,” stated Lifuka.

“The PF government should take time to reflect on the constitutional reform process and realise that any process which does not have broad public participation, will remain short-lived. The marginal gains made in 2016, should not be lost through a process which is focused on narrow sectarian interests. Now is the time to recalibrate the Constitutional reform agenda and make it people-centred. Government should develop a comprehensive consultative process and genuinely seek to reflect the aspirations of the people in the Bill to be presented to parliament next year.”

Meanwhile, speaking to journalists at Parliament shortly after the deferment, Kambwili said the bill was “Brought In Dead”.

“There is absolutely no way that you can bring a Bill, you reinstall it to the order paper, but 24 hours later you say you are deferring the consideration to next year. That clearly shows that there is something that they are hiding because yesterday they were shocked that they couldn’t gunner two thirds majority and they knew that today, that bill was going to be killed. In other words I can just that the bill that they brought to Parliament can be described as a BID (Brought In Dead) because they knew the views of the Zambian people. And surely, how can you defer such an important bill that you have been saying ‘we need this bill’? It’s because they knew that the Zambian people had rejected it. My advice to the PF government is just to withdraw this bill completely because it has no support of the Zambian people,” Kambwili said.

Kambwili asked deputy PF Chief Whip Tutwa Ngulube to stop misleading Zambians about Bill 10.

“This young boy, honourable Tutwa Ngulube, today he posted on social media that they have actually amended and changed the bill. That is misleading the people of Zambia, the bill has not been amended, and listen very carefully people of Zambia including the MPs, you see, when a select committee is selected at Parliament, they give recommendations and that recommendation is reflected in the report of the select committee. That report is not part of that bill and what is reflected in that report is not reflecting in the bill. The minister presenting that bill has the right to either go by the recommendations of the committee or completely ignore them. So for Tutwa to say ‘read the report of the committee, we have removed this and this’, he’s misleading the nation. You can only remove things if you do an amendment to the bill, you cannot remove anything by a mere recommendation by the Parliamentary Select Committee,” Kamwbili said.

“If they want to be truthful, let them take that Bill and bring a Bill minus those recommendations that the committee has given that they should not be in the bill then we will say they are genuine. But if they are going to bring the same Bill for debate, mukashala muli mwamoneni (you are going to regret).”

Kambwili further said Ngulube was partly responsible for some of the problems that the country was facing because he was one of those that endorsed President Edgar Lungu at the PF convention in 2016.

“Let me warn this young man Tutwa Ngulube, he’s becoming unbecoming. It is the same Tutwa Ngulube and his friends who mislead the PF people at the convention in 2015 when Mr Sata died to end up with the current administration that we have. This boy doesn’t mean anything, all he wants is personal gain. When he was in the backbench, he was hitting hard on the PF, he was criticising the PF. But immediately he was appointed as deputy Chief Whip, we saw the other side of Tutwa Ngulube. He is now targeting the position of Minister of Justice, that is why you see him speaking and ranting on everything without even thinking about it,” said Kambwili.

“So let Tutwa Ngulube not mislead the people of Zambia because that Tutwa Ngulube is one of the reasons we are suffering because of the 2015 PF convention and you can even see that President Lungu doesn’t even trust him. After ushering in President Lungu as President, he left him from being given a ministerial position or anything because he knew he’s a chap who is bwa bwa bwa bwa (so talkative). Ukubwata bwatafye (just talking anyhow) without any substance.”