JUSTICE Minister Given Lubinda says the adjournment of Parliament is a God-given opportunity for the entire Cabinet to go out and vigorously campaign for Constitution Amendment Bill number 10 of 2019.
And Lubinda says the media should not to give unnecessary credit to former Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Dipak Patel by suggesting that his petition in the Constitutional Court over government’s failure to seek Parliament’s approval before contracting debt is the reason why Bill 10 could not pass through the second reading stage.
Speaking during a press briefing in Lusaka, Thursday, Lubinda said the indefinite adjournment of Parliament in view of the outbreak of coronavirus did not amount to removal of Bill 10 from the National Assembly.
“I am very excited to see the level of panic amongst those who have been campaigning against Bill 10. This panic shows that they are not clear with what they are doing. I would like to appeal through you members of the press to all citizens of Zambia to inform each other on the good intentions of Bill 10. I want to appeal also to members of Cabinet, this is God-sent. The adjournment [of Parliament] as far as I am concerned is a God-sent. During this time from the adjournment to next sitting of Parliament, this is our time to also go out to the people. Over the last three years we were quiet and we were just informing the people through Parliament. But now is our time to also go and engage the citizens, to inform them about the good intentions of Bill 10. Let us go out there and tell the disabled people that Bill 10 intends to provide for them safe seats in Parliament,” Lubinda said.
And Lubinda said Patel’s petition in court had no capacity to halt debates on Bill 10 because the National Assembly was not a party to his case.
“Any citizen has the right to challenge any part of the Constitution. Dipak Patel is in his own right to go to court and say ‘can you please cite this one and this for breaching the Constitution’ and the courts will handle that matter. But…the National Assembly is not a party to that matter. From what I understand, that matter is Dipak Patel suing the Minister of Finance and the Attorney General, the National Assembly has not been joined to the matter and I am sure that the Speaker of the National Assembly today (Thursday) will study that matter and at his own time, he will pass his ruling on the matter. If indeed Parliament is not to debate Bill 10, the instruction will not come outside Parliament. The instruction will come from within Parliament by the authorities of Parliament, not just any person. So it is very trivial and mischievous for anyone to say Dipak Patel has derailed proceedings. No, don’t give him unnecessary credit. He has gone to court and his matter will be determined by the competent courts of law. Let’s not judge that matter in the press, leave it to the courts,” said Lubinda.
Meanwhile, speaking at the same briefing, Government Chief Whip Brian Mundubile said UPND went out of their to ensure Bill 10 was not debated on Thursday because they were panicking.
“Our friends yesterday, after realizing that we were in excess of 130 MPs that came out openly to say ‘we were going to support this Bill 10’, it sent them into panic, raising frivolous points of order just to disrupt. And you can tell from the [Newspaper] headlines that they were predetermined headlines because they to disrupt the proceedings. Now if at all they were confident that the numbers that opposed Bill 10 were more and that we could not push it through Parliament, why the panic? They should have allowed the process to collapse. So want to thank all those honourable members of parliament especially form the opposition that came out clearly to stand with their people, that is what is expected of members of parliament,” said Mundubile.
“A Constitution is a document of conscience, we don’t issue three line whips in times like that. Otherwise you are going to set people against each other. That is why as PF we said there would be no three line whip, listen to your people and come and argue your case on the floor of the house. So we are very happy that the process is going smoothly. Once the authorities at Ministry of Health have directed, we will take it (Bill 10) to second reading and vote and we will have a new Constitution. So we want Zambians to be excited that a new Constitution is coming, a Constitution that will be able to speak to their aspirations.”
And Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya urged the media to desist from propagating sensational news.
“Let me start by saying for a long time, I have been saying it is extremely important for media houses to have facts. I have been quite perturbed today by some of the headlines in the papers such as ‘Dipak stops Bill 10, Bill 10 derailed’. I was in Parliament the whole afternoon yesterday and I do not recall that there was any ruling by the Speaker relating to Dipak that derailed Bill 10. My recollection is very clear that the Speaker reserved a ruling on a point of order raised by honourable Gary Nkombo but actually presented a ruling on two points of orders raised on Tuesday by hnourable Jack Mwiimbu and yesterday by honourable honourable Malozo Sichone on the coronavirus and that on those two matters, the Speaker was very clear even and made a ruling. So the headlines today are not factual and I wish to appeal to my colleagues in the industry that even if your wishful thinking is to have those headlines, at least wait until the facts come out,” said Siliya.