Justice Minister Given Lubinda has finally given Cabinet’s position on Bill 10 saying it will “strongly” support the views of the people and one of the clauses it objects to is one which seeks to remove parliamentary oversight on debt contraction.

And Lubinda says constitutional lawyer John Sangwa State Counsel has no right to attack the integrity of judges, even though he is entitled to comment on their decisions.

Meanwhile, Lubinda says government is attaching as much importance to fixing the economy as it is to enacting Bill 10.

Addressing a stakeholder’s consultative meeting on Bill 10 at Mulungushi International Conference Centre, Friday, Lubinda thanked critics, saying their views assisted Cabinet to look at the Bill with clearer lenses.

He explained why Cabinet had been quiet about its position on Bill 10 all this while.

“Cabinet in these three years has been listening very attentively. Some will of you will recall that one of the organisations I spoke about placed on social media an encouragement for people to lambast the Ministry of Justice, to tell the Minister of Justice that it was not only their organization but everybody [who felt that Bill 10 needed to be withdrawn], but we received such submissions as a ministry as well. But we also received countless submissions from those who were saying ‘proceed’,” Lubinda said.

“I have no doubt that after these three years of silence from Cabinet, the nation now deserves to be informed about Cabinet’s position on the clauses in the Bill, especially in the wake of other comments that were being made by some members of the public such as; that Bill 10 aims at extending the tenure of office of the President and his government. A second misguided comment was that the Bill aims at disqualifying those who have never been elected as councilors or members of parliament from contesting elections as President. The third was that Bill 10 aims at giving power to Cabinet to print money. The fourth was that the Bill aims at removing the provision disqualifying a President on account of mental or physical disability; the fifth was an allegation that the Bill aims at disbanding institutions that are aimed at fighting corruption.”

In giving Cabinet’s position, Lubinda said contrary to the “unfounded” allegations, Bill 10 sought to enhance security of tenure of chiefs; extend period of Presidential petition from 14 days to 30 days; fortify national identity of the Republic; provide presentation of women, youth and differently abled in their Parliament; enhance separation of powers; harmonise the mandate of the Bank of Zambia and to address all legal lacunas and inconsistencies.

“Cabinet now would like to inform the Public that it shall present proposals to Parliament for consideration by the people’s representatives. Please hear me clearly, Cabinet is not coming up with a white paper, Cabinet is going to propose to members of parliament because it is only members of parliament who have the powers to amend the Zambian Constitution on behalf of the country and 50 generations of Zambia. The proposals that Cabinet shall present to Parliament are as follows: amendment of Article four, the people through their Parliamentary committee and also through the NDF recommended that the word ‘multi religious’ in Article 4 should be replaced with the word ‘Christian’. Cabinet shall propose the adoption of this position; number two, amendment of Article 47 to do with the electoral system. All stakeholders that appeared before the Committee of Parliament supported the amendment to change system of the national assembly to a mixed member system,” Lubinda explained.

“My fellow citizens; your Cabinet proposes representation of women, youths and differently abled who normally are disadvantaged in campaigns so that they too have representation in their parliament. Cabinet will therefore propose the adoption of this progressive amendment. Number three, amendment of Article 63 dealing with functions of Parliament and the National Assembly, The Cabinet of President Edgar Lungu joins the Parliamentary Committee in its concern with regards the proposed amendment from the NDF to take away from the National Assembly’s functions of approving debt before it iscontracted and approving national agreements and treaties before they are seceded to or ratified by the executive. Cabinet will therefore encourage Parliamentarians that we retain the current provisions of Article 32 D and E of the Constitution. Put simply, Cabinet is of the strong view that Parliament should continue to approve debt before it is contracted.”

Lubinda also gave Cabinet’s position on the mixed member representation in Parliament and on the disqualification of a Presidential candidate on grounds of the physical and mental ability.

“Number four; repeal and replacement of Article 68, election and composition of the national assembly. The Committee of Parliament was of the view that the current qualification for election to the National Assembly and the composition of the National Assembly should not be related to an Act of Parliament as opposed by the NDF. Cabinet subscribes to this position and would therefore urge Parliament to retain Article 68 of the Constitution so that the qualification to the election to Parliament retained in the Constitution while allowing for delimitation of constituencies by the Electoral Commission of Zambia. Number five, repeal and replacement of Articles 101, 102, 103 and 104 to do with election of the President, disqualification, election petition and transitional period before assuming office. The people of Zambia through their Parliamentary Committee raised serious opposition to the introduction of a coalition government system. They contend to continue having a majoritarian President, Cabinet conquers and will propose to Parliament not to amend Articles 101, 102, 103 and 104 so that a President should be one who receives more than 50 per cent of the vote,” he said.

“Number six, amendment of Article 114, functions of Cabinet. Fellow citizens, your Cabinet conquers that Cabinet should continue to recommend to Parliament accession to or ratification to national agreements and treaties and loans and guarantees contracted by the State. Cabinet should continue to recommend for National Assembly’s approval. Number seven; inserting of Article 117 (a) and that is to do with the position of deputy ministers. The voice of the public on this matter was loud and clear. Cabinet actually would have been very surprised if the Committee of Parliament recommended otherwise. Cabinet would therefore urge Parliament not to reintroduce the position of deputy ministers. Number eight; repeal and replacement of Article 165’ the institutions of chieftains; Cabinet awaits the consults on this matter.”

Lubinda said Cabinet also supported the clause to maintain retirees on the payroll until their pension benefits were settled.

“By law, every employer is required to deduct from an employee their contributions. It therefore goes without question that an employer who fails to provide the pension benefits due to an employee should be held to account. After all, the pension is made up of contributions from the employee’s contributions. Therefore, Cabinet will be in the forefront in campaigning among members of parliament for this provision to be retained in the Constitution. After all, this provisions safeguards pensioners who if they are not paid their dues, become beneficiaries of the government’s social cash transfer programme. As such, this provision is in the interest of the pensioners, the government and society at large. It does not hurt society. It does not hurt the government; it only supports all of us,” Lubinda said.

Lubinda also said Cabinet did not support the merging of the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) with the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), saying the two institutions had different independent functions which needed to be maintained as such.

When asked when the Bill would be taken to Parliament for second reading, Lubinda said the Bill would be tabled in Parliament as soon as Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

Sangwa has no right to attack integrity of judges – Lubinda

Meanwhile, speaking when he featured on COSTA, Saturday, Lubinda said people shouldn’t dare touch the persona of court officers.

“We are not [removing Article 52]. State Counsel Sangwa can go and petition the Presidential nomination at any time, as long as they also respect the courts and its decisions. Particularly that they are friends of the court, they mustn’t behave like they are people who are not learned. It is very clear and learned Counsel (Sangwa) knows very well that they are at liberty to comment on decision of the courts. But they are not allowed to demean the stature of any officer of the court,” Lubinda said.

“What is the reason why they’ve been barred? What is it that they were saying about the court judges? I have said this time and again; I have kept on advising member of the public to say please don’t you dare touch on the persona of the court officers. You can talk about their judgment it’s fine.”

Lubinda said all the ConCourt judges were scrutinized, therefore, it was unfair to demean them.

“The Constitution also provides that for a person to be appointed as a judge, their nomination has to come from the Judicial Service Commission. After that, all the President does is simply to instruct the Minister of Justice to present the candidates to Parliament. The people we are speaking about, did they go through that process? Were they scrutinized? If the answer is ‘yes’ and today we demean them to say these people are rogues, what are we literary saying? That the whole process and all those people that were involved in this process are what? Would that be patriotic to say that about your own country? I may differ with you on principle but I have no right to insult your integrity, I don’t have,” he said.

Lubinda also said it was illogical to say Bill 10 should be shelved so that government focusses on other problems prevailing in the country.

“To trivialize it and say ‘there is a temporary mealie meal shortage in the country therefore, stop talking about laws let’s go and concentrate on finding food’, my foot! What kind of thinking is that?” Lubinda asked.

“Are you telling that if we don’t pass Bill 10 then all of a sudden our GDP will grow by 10 per cent? Governance is not as simple as that. The craft of statesmanship is not the same as saying ‘we only have one glass of water here so let’s not use it drinking, let’s use it for cooking’, government is holistic. While you are thinking about fixing the issues of mealie meal, you cannot stop fixing of health. You cannot stop the process of fixing the economy. As we are talking now, government is working on all these things. We cannot say because there is coronavirus then let us stop legislating, no!”

When asked if government was just as committed to fixing the economy, Lubinda replied in the affirmative.

“Extremely so! And the President is putting in a lot of time. We are devoting time that is required for each of these matters. This is the reason why government has different units. I am not Minister of Finance, I am Minister of Justice and I have come here to talk about laws. When you bring the Minister of Finance here, he will come and talk about the economy but will you come and say to him ‘but minister, why are you talking about the economy and not about Bill 10’? no! Unfortunately a lot of people who have been here before me over Bill 10 took advantage of our being quiet because we were listening and they thought they could continue to misinform. Now that we are informing people adequately, they have become quiet and you want to advance the same questions that have been asked before,” he said.

Lubinda said President Lungu would go down in history as the first Head of State to give people a bug platform to discuss their constitution.

“Two things will go down in annals of history that President Edgar Chagwa Lungu and his Minister of Justice were the first to give a big platform for people to discuss their Constitution without hindrance. We did not gag anybody, we allowed everyone to express their views. That I would like to carry as my legacy, as the legacy I share with the one who was instructing me. This is something that no one should take away from us. With regard to content, we have nothing to do with it. This content came from the people and we listened to the people. We are happy that they made these views known and we shall make sure that their views are supported,” said Lubinda.