Constitutional Lawyer John Sangwa SC says what Zambia has is an economic crisis, not a constitutional one.
And Kabwe Central PF lawmaker Tutwa Ngulube says Bill 10 can only be withdrawn if the people opposing it convince the Justice Minister or President Edgar Lungu as they are the only people who have the power to stop it.
Meanwhile, NDC leader Chishimba Kambwili urged members of parliament to be alert, warning that the PF would “dribble” them.
Speaking when he featured at the News Diggers OSISA, Prime TV, Eden University and Chapter One Foundation sponsored discussion forum, Sangwa said it would make more sense for Zambia to be preoccupied by how to sort out the economic challenges currently obtaining rather than push for amendments to the constitution which are purely about elections.
“I don’t think it needs to be taken to the people, it doesn’t require refinement and I think people have better issues to focus on. As a country, we are not in a crisis in terms of the Constitution, our crisis is economic. Ideally, our discussion today should have been centered on how we can confront the economic challenges that the country is facing and not the Constitution. We should be ashamed as a country that we have spent the last 29 years discussing about the constitution,” Sangwa said.
“Guys, let’s not lie to each other, the idea is that this Bill 10 is geared toward the election anyway, that is the truth. The point is this, you never use a constitution as a political tool, a constitution is supposed to be a revered, respected, a dignified instrument. It’s too early to start reviewing the constitution, the constitution came into force in January 2016, three years later you want to change, are you saying you didn’t know what you were doing in 2016, we need to give the constitution time, it’s not for the minister to sit in his office and start telling us that ‘I disagree with this provision’, no.”
He charged that the Judiciary had betrayed the Zambian people on the Bill 10 issue.
“I took the case to court to challenge Bill 10 and I can tell you, I can’t go into details because the final judgement of the court is not yet out but one of the things I can say without any hesitation that the Judiciary betrayed the Zambian people. Now, yes, the Judiciary, I can’t go into the details but the point is that they rejected it but in my view, they betrayed the Zambian people but again, it is the duty of each and every judge if by deciding the way they decided, they can sleep comfortably in the night, that’s okay. The point is this, the beauty of our system is that once one safeguard has failed, you have go to another safeguard. Now, the judiciary has failed as a safeguard, the only safeguard we have now are the MPs to make sure that the bill does not receive the two thirds majority required. I have no faith in the institutions of government but I have faith in the Zambian people,” said Sangwa.
And Chapter One Foundation executive director Linda Kasonde insisted that the Bill 10 provisions go against national values and principals, arguing that enacting the bill would turn Zambia into a one part state.
“When Chapter One Foundation decided to petition the enactment of the constitution amendment bill, or Bill number 10 as it is popularly known, we did so for two main reasons, firstly, the enactment of bill number 10 is illegal and unconstitutional. When you test the provisions of Bill number 10 against the national values and principals and the principal of democratic governance, we as Chapter One argue that the provisions of Bill 10 do not conform to those values and principals which is what makes it unconstitutional…I haven’t exhausted all the provisions of Bill 10 that are worrying but the effects of those which I have highlighted will make it easier for whoever is in government, in this case the PF, to rig elections and to stay in power. Depending on how far the powers are abused, the net effect would be to turn Zambia into a one party dictatorship,” said Kasonde, who also indicated that Chapter One Foundation would challenge the bill in court if it happened to be passed.
Meanwhile, Cheembe PF member of parliament Sebastian Kopulande highlighted the contentious clauses which had been rejected by the select committee; among them reintroduction of deputy ministers and the formation of a coalition government.
“Fellow countrymen, Bill 10 has been called all sorts of names including evil, is it evil? I have given you the process, I have shown you what had happened in the case of Bill 10. It is not a bad bill. I urge you to love Zambia more than anything and stand by the truth which is Bill 10,” said Kopulande.
But Monze Central UPND member of parliament Jack Mwiimbu argued that the select committee’s recommendations were not binding on the House as they could be ignored.
“The committee of parliament has no power whatsoever to reject anything that is in bill number 10, the committee merely advises Parliament and that advice that is given by the committee is never binding on anybody, it’s not binding. When you have a committee of parliament relating to a bill, the report of the committee is never debated or adopted on the floor of the House, that is the procedure. What is debated on the floor of the House is the actual bill and the bill that is on the floor of the House of Parliament currently is bill number 10. Bill number 10 is intact, the way it was presented on the floor of the House by the Minister of Justice, no changes have been made. I am aware that the PF and the government have been going round the country telling the people of Zambia that the contents of bill number 10 have changed, which is not the correct position. If ever there will be debate on the floor of the House, what will be debated is bill number 10 with all its obnoxious, abhorrent provisions, bill number 10, not the report of the committee,” said Mwiimbu.
And Ngulube noted that the Constitutional Amendment bill number 10 of 2019 can only be withdrawn by the Minister of Justice or the President.
“If it is our will as the people of Zambia that bill number 10 be withdrawn, there are established procedures. You can write to the Minister of Justice, you can persuade him, you can ask the President. They are the only people with power to withdraw the bill. Me as a member of parliament, I do not have that power to withdraw a bill,” said Ngulube.
“When you are talking about Bill number 10 and you are somewhere very far away from where the official procedures are happening, you contributions, no matter how intelligent they are, they will never be taken into account and I also know that when you want to chase a train which has already gone, it becomes very difficult to catch it. This time around, let us learn a lesson that when you are not happy about something, put it in writing or come and appear, that is how it happens.”
Meanwhile, Kambwili warned members of parliament to be alert.
“When you want to formulate a Constitution that fits your stay in power, then you are being unreasonable. Bill 10 is basically meant to perpetuate the stay of the PF in government by giving the President more powers. I want to be President of this country but I don’t want to have excessive power that will [be excessive]. Presidential powers must be there for you to uplift the living standards of the people and I don’t want to go into the nitty-gritty’s of this issue, to go clause by clause but what I just want to say is that let us not mislead the people of Zambia. I want to warn members of parliament, once you open the two thirds, the rest of the articles is by simple majority, baka mi dribbler aba bantu (these people will dribble you), they don’t mean well,” warned Kambwili.
And when asked by youth activist Mumbi Namwaba on why PF was in a hurry to enact Bill 10, Ngulube said it was in order to avoid constitutional challenges as was experienced during the presidential petition after the 2016 general elections.
And in response to Monica Isenberg, who is also Princess Mumbi of the Bisa people, on how the bill could be done away with immediately, Sangwa said people power was the only thing that could get rid of Bill 10 for good.