Constitutional lawyer John Sangwa says he has interrogated the proposed Constitution Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019 and found that there is nothing progressive about it because it only seeks to give more powers to President Edgar Lungu.
Meanwhile, Sangwa says going by the slim margin with which President Lungu won the 2016 election, his chances of winning 2021 are nil.
Speaking when he featured on the last edition of the Frank on Hot programme on Hot FM, Tuesday, Sangwa argued that the biggest beneficiary if the controversial Bill were to pass would only be President Lungu as it would give him an upper-hand heading into next year’s general election.
“I am surprised, today, two years later (after assenting to the Constitution amendment), somebody comes and says, ‘we need to change the Constitution.’ The question is, you mean you didn’t know what you were doing in 2015? So, what was 2015 all about? We don’t change constitutions like that! The reason (for revisiting this amendment) is very simple, it’s about the elections of 2021. It has nothing to do with benefiting the people. I would go as far as stating that, in the event that the Bill becomes law, the biggest beneficiary will be President Lungu,” Sangwa said.
He observed that President Lungu had just realized that he lost more power when he assented to the Constitution amendment process in 2015 and now wanted to reclaim his power through Bill 10.
“I have interrogated this particular Bill and I can tell you that there is nothing progressive about it. In fact, the real objective is…I can understand why President Lungu wants to change this. I wrote to him a letter and I said, ‘Mr President, you have done a wonderful thing because for the first time in the history of this country, all your predecessors have tried to seize more power, but what you did in 2016 is cede power.’ The powers of the (Republican) President were reduced. What the President has realized is that he gave up too much power and all what he wants to do is to get it back!” he said.
And Sangwa said Zambians’ biggest curse was allowing politicians to let them down after being elected into office.
“Our biggest curse in this country is the fact that, I think the people we have elected into power have let us down because they forget that they are there to serve the people and not to serve themselves. I think that it is time that people started demanding from their leaders rather than expecting that the leaders will be able to tell them what to do. We tell the leaders what we want,” Sangwa said.
He said Dr Kenneth Kaunda deserved the title of a “true democrat” because he respected the will of the people and ceded power when it was time.
“President Lungu must set an example by respecting this Constitution. When you respect the Constitution, you make it difficult for your successor to do something different. In 1991, president Kaunda lost an election (and) for the first time in Africa, an incumbent lost power and didn’t resist. He surrendered power. That was a significant milestone in our democracy. In fact, if somebody was to say, ‘who is a best democrat in Zambia?’ I would give that title to Kaunda. He respected the will of the people and ceded power. My greatest fear is for President Lungu not to respect the Constitution,” he said.
Sangwa said whoever came up with the idea of amending the already-amended Constitution did not understand anything about Constitutional law, parliamentary systems, or how a presidential system ought to work.
“President Lungu under his watch wants to change that by bringing up this bogus idea of a coalition government! First of all, whoever came up with this idea knows nothing about Constitutional law; knows nothing about the workings of a parliamentary system; knows nothing about how a presidential system is supposed to work. In fact, it has not even been carefully thought through because there is an agenda,” Sangwa argued.
Meanwhile, Sangwa said going by the slim margin with which President Lungu won in 2016, his chances of winning 2021 were nil.
“What happened in the last election was the fact that the difference between the UPND candidate and the PF candidate in terms of votes was about roughly 100,000 votes. President Lungu got something like 1.7 million votes and president Hakainde got 1.7 million votes and that difference didn’t matter. What mattered was did he get 50 per cent plus one? When you work out the numbers, President Lungu received 50.35 per cent. And when you take the point .35 per cent, it translated to 13,000 votes. Now, if you are an incumbent and you only get 13,000 votes, that is scary! What are the chances that you are going to improve on those numbers in the next election? The chances are nil,” Sangwa argued.
And commenting on the Bill 10 clause which seeks to remove the multi-religious aspect and replace it with a Christian nation clause, Sangwa insisted that government had no right to dictate what kind of faith people should have.
“I have the right to believe in what I want to believe. I am a born-again Christian since 1978. You may not be a Christian, I will respect you. You may be Muslim, I will respect you because you have made a deliberate and conscious decision not to share my faith. But I have no right to impose my beliefs on anyone. And just like I have no right, government, too, has no right to dictate to the people what kind of faith they should have! And if I may ask, what do you want to achieve? What is the rationale? If you look at the background, we have never had problems with issues of religion in this country. Hindus exist, Muslims exists, Christians and even within Christianity, there are many groups there. We have never quarreled and it has never been a problem. So, why are you introducing it in the Constitution? What is it that you want to address?” wondered Sangwa, who also urged politicians to only make Constitutional changes which they would manage to tolerate when they are ejected from office.