Lukashya Independent member of parliament Mwenya Munkonge says the decision on whether or not Bill 10 should be passed must wait as only a few of the clauses have been publicly debated.
And Munkonge says the Constitution Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019 should not be thrown out of Parliament without completely weighing all its positives and negatives.
In an interview in Lusaka, Munkonge observed that Zambians still need to be given an opportunity to scrutinize the Bill in its totality and be sensitized on its contents to understand their implication on the amended Constitution.
“I think the decision [on Bill 10] should not be made now because the debate has not been concluded, and the reason I say that is because this Bill 10, they are trying to change so many things; it starts from clause 4 to clause 76, we are just discussing the clauses that are popular, why? We had an opportunity in the NDF (National Dialogue Forum), we had the opportunity to discuss from clause one to clause 76. There are some which haven’t been put in here because they were rejected outrightly. There are also some outcomes of the decisions of these, which we have. So, why can’t we give the Zambian people an opportunity to look at it in totality? And there are clauses here, like clause 69, which attempts to change the name of the DEC (Drug Enforcement Commission), and give them more power to prosecute; what is wrong with that? DEC, most likely, will be the one that will follow the politicians who are abusing office,” Munkonge said.
“…Meanwhile you are saying, ‘we should fight crime and by throwing away Bill 10,’ you also throw away clause 69, you haven’t even discussed clause 69, what if you are happy with it? I am happy if the DEC can be changed and it can now hold us, politicians, and anybody else more accountable. The FIC (Trends) Report is acted upon by the law enforcement agencies, it still remains a report and there is nowhere in the world where the Financial Intelligence Centre actually has the power, the mandate to go and prosecute anybody. If anything, the challenge we have is not so much identifying the crimes, it’s what happens after we identify the crimes. Right now, if you go in the courts, you will find a lot of civil servants in the accounts departments appearing from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and so on. So, yes, we can do more, but do you have the resources to do more?”
He noted that there was need to strike a balance on the overall effect of Bill 10 on the country and its citizens.
“Bill 10, as I see it, I am hoping that we can have a meaningful discussion in Parliament because it is about pros and cons balancing. If the overall effect of Bill 10 is positive, and understanding that it’s a perfect world, then it should be adopted. But you can’t conclude that if you only pick the popular topics, what about the 68 other topics in here? There is a background fear that, after we allow the amendment to pass through, it will then be subjected to further manipulation. After you say, ‘yes, change,’ then they can add other things, that’s a genuine fear. Whenever you are changing the laws, you must have it in the back of your mind that if an individual is unscrupulous, he can take advantage of those changes and I think that’s the challenge. And surprisingly for Bill 10, if we want to change the Constitution, it needs two-thirds and there is no single grouping in Parliament that has two-thirds,” Munkonge observed.
“But there is also the aspect of saying, ‘you have lost your faith in all politicians’ because if UPND, as an opposition, just says, ‘no, this Bill cannot pass’ even if the rest of MPs support it…Even if you put all the MPs for PF and all the Independents together, it’s not enough to do two-thirds, even the other way round: you put all UPND MPs and Independents, it’s not enough to do two-thirds to change the Constitution. So, that’s where, now, the lack of trust comes in because there are some people who are Independents, but they are pro-UPND or pro-PF and we have two other parties in Parliament. So, this Bill 10 can only pass with a majority of two-thirds if people cross over.”
Meanwhile, he disclosed that he will write to Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini to give Parliament an opportunity to discuss each clause in Bill 10 so that citizens could appreciate it more.
“If we could have people thinking of just Zambia as opposed to just political positions, maybe, we could make a lot more progress in this. With me, now, what I am going to attempt on a personal-level is, I am going to appeal to the Speaker and say ‘give Parliament an opportunity to discuss each item so that the people of Zambia have an opportunity to weigh the pros and cons’ because if we are not careful, what will happen is that Parliament will just discuss the popular issues and leave all the other issues. So, the idea could be, and I don’t know how we can do it, how it can be done because it is from clause 4 to 76, so we need to have a situation where we discuss all the clauses so that people can understand,” said Munkonge.