Constitutional Lawyer John Sangwa, State Counsel, says Vice-President Inonge Wina has no moral right to use the cost of by-elections as an excuse for the enactment of Bill 10 and has reminded her of the role her husband played in adulterating the Constitution in 1969, which led to a one party State.
And Sangwa says Zambia’s economy is suffering not because of the cost of by-elections but because of corruption, mismanagement of resources and sheer theft by public servants.
In Parliament last week, Vice-President Wina said Bill 10 would make sure that government stops spending money on by-elections.
“Mr Speaker, this government respects constitutionalism and as such, the Constitution details this nation to undertake an election 90 days after the passing on of a member of parliament and according to the current Constitution that is in use, it requires the nation to go to an election. So if the honourable members are so passionate about cutting costs of elections, I believe the change in the provision in the Constitution regarding elections should be looked at. So as a House, we unite and agree to change the pattern in which we elect our members. It is advisable for the House to consider the change in the provision regarding elections, so Bill 10 provides that opportunity for this country,” said Vice-President Wina.
But Sangwa said Vice-President Wina had no moral right to use the by-election excuse for Bill 10, and reminded her that her husband, Arthur Wina, and brother-in-law, Sikota Wina, lied to the people in 1969 and caused the collapse of the Barotse Agreement.
“The Vice-President is trying to justify Bill 10 on the premise that we will save money from by-elections. This is a lie, madam Inonge Wina is deliberately trying to mislead the people. But this is what they are trying to do. They want to provide an electoral system for MPs which will be contained in an Act of Parliament. But we don’t know what that Act of Parliament will say. Like I have been saying, it’s like a child asking you to say ‘dad, can you say yes to what I am about to ask you’, as a parent you wouldn’t say ‘yes’, you would say, ‘can you first tell me what you want’,” Sangwa said.
“The problem is that people don’t respect history. That money argument has been used before. In 1969, the Vice-President’s husband, the late Arthur Wina and brother Sikota Wina were both members of parliament in 1969. These are the guys who were in the forefront of removing the referendum clause from the Constitution. Remember the Constitution required that if you want to amend a certain part, you had to go to a referendum, but they said we don’t need that because the money required for a referendum, we can use it for development.”
He went ahead and quoted what Wina and Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe said in Parliament in April 1969.
“I have a quote here, the problem is that people don’t like reading. First of all, you have Kapwepwe who says: ‘No true Zambian can stand in opposition to the proposal contained in this Bill for a vote for the retention of all that is British in our Constitution and a rejection of an opportunity to Zambianize that which defines the very character of our nation’. That was Kapwepwe. Then Sikota Wina says: ‘If we are going to reach a stage whereby at every turn, we’ve got to run back and print ballot papers again to vote, we might find ourselves in a position where in one year, it may be necessary to change a very small part of the Constitution four times. That is K1 million spent on asking people questions which are obvious in the election. That is one million we might have used for the construction of more than 30 schools throughout the country, that might be used for the construction of 500 miles of road, good gravel road. That is the money now which they propose we should spend on future exercises of this nature. We expect this referendum to be the first and last, in the history of the Republic of Zambia’,” Sangwa said.
“Now, that same year when they changed the Constitution in 1969, the Barotse Agreement collapsed. Without the referendum, the Barotse Agreement was still intact. Because of that one single decision which they made, to amend the Constitution, we had to endure 17 years of one party rule, only to restore the referendum clause in 1991, which is now your Article 79. This is why the Vice-President is the last person qualified to comment on the amendment of the Constitution because her husband and brother-in-law lied to the people of this country in 1969. Tell madam Inonge Wina that she has no moral right to comment on these things because her husband, late Arthur Wina and Sikota Wina were part of Kaunda’s government, they were members of parliament in 1969 and they were in the forefront convincing people to vote in favour of the amendment of 1969. They betrayed their own people in Western Province. That’s how the Barotse Agreement collapsed.”
He went further to explain the challenges that the 1969 Constitution Amendment brought.
“With the referendum of 1969, it meant that the Constitution was open to amendment like any other Act of Parliament. So any part of the Constitution could now be amended without going to the referendum, that was the objective of the 1969 amendment. So basically, you reduce the Constitution to an Act of Parliament. This is exactly what they are saying now, they don’t want the composition of parliament to be enshrined in the Constitution, they want to leave that to an Act of parliament, for which they don’t need a two thirds majority. So remind all members of parliament to go back in history so that they can respect the Constitution. They have a very nice library there with research assistants, let them read,” Sangwa advised.
“Look at Kenya’s example! Kenya never went one party State, they remained with a multiparty system. Now look at the economy of Kenya and Zambia! By the way, the GDP of Zambia is the GDP of Nairobi alone! The value of goods and services generated in Nairobi is what the entire country of Zambia produces. And these are all consequences of bad politics, they have nothing to do with by-elections. If by-elections are costly, that’s fine, it’s people’s money. The economy is suffering, not because of by-elections, the economy is suffering because of incompetence, mismanagement and corruption, that’s the reason. It’s not by-elections that have destroyed the economy, it is corruption, mismanagement and just sheer theft of public funds. That is why the country is in problems. The cost of elections has always been used to justify some changes to the Constitution.”
He urged citizens not to allow the PF to lie to them.
“The problem is that this topic is complex for people and this is why the PF can lie with straight faces because they believe that people don’t read – and indeed people don’t read. Remember the argument in Malawi where the electoral commission said the election rerun was going to be too expensive for such a poor country. But the court told them off that democracy is expensive, what do you expect? And by the way, the Constitutional Court actually recommended that they should introduce the system of 50 per cent plus one, the very system that you want to do away with in Zambia,” observed Sangwa.
“You see, the problem that these people in PF have is that they behave as if they are pioneering Zambia, when they are not. They are not the first people to argue these things, they are lying. The issue of cost doesn’t stand, after all, it is the people’s money anyway, it’s not their money. I insist that the country is suffering because of theft, corruption and mismanagement. By-elections have never been the problem. The real problem Zambia is facing is that these public officers are stealing from government coffers. There is a general lack of clear direction for the country.”