The Law Association of Zambia has reiterated its call for a new and progressive Constitutional Amendment Bill introduced to Parliament, insisting that Constitution Amendment Bill number 10 of 2019 must be withdrawn.

In a statement, Tuesday, LAZ insisted that Bill 10 was retrogressive.

“As the nation awaits the consideration of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill, No. 10 of 2019 (“Bill No. 10”) by the National Assembly, which is due to resume its sittings on 11th February 2020, the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) reiterates its position on the Bill as indicated in the Press Statement of 15th July 2019 that Bill No. 10 is by and large retrogressive,” read the statement, which was issued by the LAZ Council.

“LAZ is cognizant of the fact that in its widely publicized petition before the Constitutional Court regarding Bill No. 10, the Constitutional Court dismissed LAZ’s petition principally on the ground that proposed legislation cannot be challenged until it becomes law. LAZ’s perusal of the abridged judgment of the Constitutional Court dated 29th November 2019, which is the only judgment currently available, reveals that the Constitutional Court’s decision did not in any way suggest that the contents of Bill No. 10 had been endorsed by the Constitutional Court.”

LAZ stated that the country’s legislative process did not guarantee that the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Select Committee which was instituted to scrutinise Bill 10 would be adopted.

“Further, the LAZ Council has acquainted itself with the contents of the Report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Bill No. 10 and has noted the fact that although a number of stakeholders made various recommendations on the Bill, some of which are laudable, the reality is that Bill No. 10 remains as it was when the Bill was published in Gazzette Notice No. 660 of Friday, 21stJune 2019. There is therefore no other Constitutional Amendment Bill before Parliament but the same Bill No. 10, which contains numerous retrogressive provisions, a number of which the Select Committee also rejected,” read the statement.

“In addition, LAZ notes that the legislative process in our country does not in any way guarantee that any of the Select Committee’s recommendations will be adopted by the National Assembly when the Bill comes up for debate. Accordingly, the prospects and risk of the retrogressive amendments being adopted by the National Assembly have not been eliminated at all. In the light of the foregoing, LAZ earnestly calls on the Government to withdraw Bill No. 10 before a fresh, progressive Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, built on consensus of all stakeholders, is re-introduced in Parliament. It is LAZ’s hope that such a fresh Bill will seek to advance, and not erode, the collective fortunes of all Zambians or the provisions of the current Constitution and will guarantee the growth of our democracy, social order and social justice.”

The Associate stated that it would continue to pursue interventions to stop Bill 10.

“In light of numerous retrogressive provisions in Bill No. 10 and LAZ’s statutory duties, the LAZ Council will continue pursuing interventions aimed at achieving a rethink about the retrogressive provisions in Bill No.10 and the Bill as a whole. Having already moved the Constitutional Court, these interventions will include engaging its members on Bill No. 10 and reaching out to stakeholders to join hands with LAZ in building consensus on the constitution amendment process,” the statement read.

“As always, LAZ remains committed to playing its statutory role of furthering the development of law as an instrument of social order, social justice and as an essential element in the growth of our democratic society.”

Meanwhile, the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) urged civil society organizations, political parties and religious leaders to desist from planting seeds of division on Bill 10.

JCTR urged members of the public to appreciate the contents of the bill in order to form their own opinion rather than being mislead by those who were throwing tantrums.

“The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) has noted with concern that the media is awash with disparaging and divisive statements emanating from various quarters of society on the proposed constitutional amendment, popularly known as Bill 10. JCTR would like to call upon political, civic and religious leaders to exercise responsible leadership on this very important matter in the life of our nation. It is important that the citizenry makes informed decisions on the matter and they can only do so if leaders are providing sober and proper counsel on the issue. JCTR is cognizant of the mixed emotions surrounding Bill 10 but we urge politicians, civic and religious leaders to desist from planting seeds of division on an issue of national importance,” stated JCTR in a separate statement, Tuesday.

“The ultimate power in any democracy lies in the people and these same people should not be at risk of being misled by those in authority who are continuously throwing tantrums over Bill 10 instead of soberly giving counsel to the people. JCTR also urges members of the public to take time to read and appreciate the contents of Bill 10 and form their own independent opinion other than allowing themselves to be misguided by the politicians that tend to be biased. JCTR calls on Zambians from all walks of life to take keen interest in the constitutional amendment process to ensure this process is guided by the desire to put the common good of our nation ahead of individual and partisan interests.”