Justice Minister Given Lubinda says he cannot withdraw the Constitution Amendment Bill number 10 of 2019 just because two lawyers in the name of John Sangwa SC and Linda Kasonde have said so.
And Lubinda yesterday heeded President Edgar Lungu’s directive for government and PF officials to push forward the agenda of enacting Bill 10, and held a press briefing where he said there is no guarantee that Bill 10 will be amended.
In an interview, Monday, Lubinda said he could not draw a conclusion that Zambians don’t want Bill 10 based on the views of the people who attended the News Diggers discussion forum last Friday.
“Which Zambian people are calling for the withdrawal of the bill? Which stakeholders? Who did the census? It is not true that a lot of Zambians are calling for the withdrawal of Bill 10. If you have a forum at Intercontinental, how many people can that hall take? Who is Linda Kasonde?” Lubinda asked.
“How many LAZ presidents do we have? Sakwiba Sikota was former LAZ president and as senior as State Counsel, he has said proceed with Bill 10 but why is [it] that you are referring to one former leader of the association and not another one? You heard UPND saying withdraw, haven’t you also heard PF saying don’t withdraw? Why is it that you want to generalise to suit your agenda? Haven’t you heard many PF MPs saying proceed with the bill? So it is not true to say that many people are calling for the withdrawal, that is not true. I have received many (submissions). Even today I was at church people came to me and said ‘minister proceed with Bill 10, it means well for Zambia’. And what they are saying is as important as what others say. Many clergy people have said Bill 10 is important and we must proceed with it.”
He said those opposed to Bill 10 were not the only people in Zambia.
“Who is [John] Sangwa? He is one of the Constitutional lawyers in Zambia. Does it mean what Linda Kasonde, Jack Mwiimbu, GEARS, Chishimba Kambwili and UPND are saying is what the Zambians are saying? Is UPND the only party in the country? In a democracy such as this, it is the people represented by their duly elected members of parliament who decide. Decisions are not made outside Parliament. Those who want Bill 10 to proceed are appealing to their MPs, they don’t even have to come to me. I did my work and my work was to ask members of the public, institutions, political parties and lawyers. And by the way, LAZ made submissions to the Ministry of Justice and was represented at the technical committee meeting workshop that was held in Siavonga. LAZ was represented at the parliamentary workshop that was held at Parliament under the Inter-Parliamentary Union, it had active representation at the National Dialogue Forum (NDF), it has active members who are also MPs. If the association was involved in all these stages, why is it that you want to talk about what Linda Kasonde is saying instead of what LAZ has been saying? Had they not been allowed to participate, they would have legitimate calls to complain that they were left out,” Lubinda said.
“President Edgar Lungu did not make any submissions, he said he wanted Zambians to make submissions. Some of those submissions that are in there actually came from LAZ, some of those submissions came from the UPND. Tell Mwiimbu that the product of his own effort is what he is now challenging. And instead of challenging it at Intercontinental Hotel, the best place to discus Bill 10 is the National Assembly. What changes issues is Parliament. I published Bill 10 in the newspapers for one month to allow Zambians to comment and after that, Mr Speaker invited people and he extended the sittings of Parliament from seven days to 21 days. So all those people who were making submissions mean nothing? It is those few who were at Intercontinental who mean a lot? Is that fair honestly? Why is it that people who want the bill to be withdrawn are coming to you? That day at that forum of yours, how many people were from any other party apart from the UPND? On that panel, how many were against Bill 10? The whole forum was filled with people who were against the Bill 10, there were only two voices in the crowd that were in favor of the bill. The rest are your followers. They are not neutral on this matter.”
And addressing a press briefing at his office, Tuesday, Lubinda said there was no guarantee that any amendments will be made to Bill 10.
“The point that I get from your question is ‘is there a possibility for any amendment to be made?’ and my answer to you is, every clause in that bill is subject to consideration by parliament. There is no clause in that Bill which is sacrosanct. It is up to the 2/3 of parliamentarians. I cannot give you any guarantee. The Ministry of Justice has been so far mute as regards to discussing the content of Bill 10. The position that we have taken as Ministry of Justice is to facilitate the process of consensus. So, there is no way I can give any guarantee on any article that will be retained and the one that will be amended. I can’t. It will be up to members of parliament. All the 79 articles are still available for amendment,” he said.
Lubinda then took a swipe on the organisers of the Bill 10 public discussion forum.
“I was very demoralised by the reports that some political parties were gagging opponents of Bill 10 at the forum organised by Prime Television, Chapter one and others on Friday at the Intercontinental Hotel. I was extremely demoralised because the organisers of that forum are themselves champions of the freedom of expression [and] democracy. How come on that day they threw away those values to the wind and allowed the audience to gag others from being heard in a democracy? Champions of the rights of people on that day were overtaken by some spirit,” charged Lubinda.