ROAN National Democratic Congress (NDC) member of parliament Joseph Chishala says there is nothing wrong with the amendments Justice Minister Given Lubinda presented in the Constitution Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019 so far, hence his reason for staying in Parliament.
And Chishala says he will accept whatever decision the party’s national governing council comes up with over his decision to remain in Parliament after his UPND colleagues walked out of the House immediately Bill 10 was presented for Second Reading.
In an interview, Chishala explained why he did not emulate UPND lawmakers, who had walked out on Lubinda, arguing that he had wanted to listen to Cabinet’s recommendations so that he could make an informed decision ahead of voting on Bill 10.
“I think people are not getting me right; one thing you should understand is that there are three documents there. There is a Bill 10 draft from the NDF, there is Select Committee report and there are Cabinet recommendations. What was presented in Parliament was the Bill, together with recommendations from Cabinet. So, in my case, my staying back in Parliament [after the UPND MPs walked out] was merely to listen to the recommendations of Cabinet because the recommendations of Cabinet, we got them when the Minister [of Justice] was at Mulungushi Conference Centre, which to me, I wasn’t guaranteed; I could only be guaranteed of those amendments that the Minister moved in the House. Only inside Parliament, not outside. So, that was my only reason for staying in the House, to listen to those amendments so that I hear what government’s position is,” Chishala argued.
“I don’t see how I could have listened to government’s recommendations when I am outside Parliament. So, I didn’t want to walk out because issues are discussed in Parliament, not outside. We are elected to represent people in Parliament, not outside. Before I vote, I need to debate that item. I need to present my issues and the issues of the people before I vote because the procedure in the House is that the Bill is presented, then there is time for debates. After debates, that’s when you can vote. Now, before even voting comes in, people start walking out. For me, I didn’t see any reason why I should walk out even before I present my issues in the House. I was supposed to present my issues, then wait for the time to debate. If Cabinet cannot see what the people want, I cannot vote for Bill 10.”
Asked what his position was on Cabinet’s recommendations, he said there was nothing wrong with what Lubinda had presented to Parliament so far.
“All the amendments, if you’ve seen, three quarters of those amendments are the issues that people have been talking about. For example, the issue of deputy ministers, stripping powers from Parliament, stripping powers from the Bank of Zambia, the issue of workers remaining on payroll, which was my main issue, has been tackled as well by Cabinet. All those issues have been addressed in that document. So, I don’t see anything wrong with those amendments. Unless otherwise, Cabinet fails to push in those items in the Bill. If they are just sugar-coating us with those amendments, then they are wasting their time and if they think that we will vote for a Bill without pushing things that the Zambian people want, then, God forbid, because that won’t work! We represent the people and if you represent the people, you have to do what the people want,” Chishala said.
He could, however, not comment on the NDC’s decision to engage church leaders to convince him to change his mind on Bill 10.
The parliamentarian stressed that his relationship with the party was still good and that he would accept any decision made by the national governing committee over his stance to tolerate Bill 10.
“I can’t comment on party issues. I think that issue is with the national governing committee. So, I don’t know what the national governing council has thought of my stay in the House. But I have told you why I stayed in the House. But then, it’s up to the national governing council of the party; whatever decision they will make is entirely up to them. But my relationship with the party is still okay. We might have different views on why I stayed in the House on that particular day, but I’m still NDC, I will no longer be UPND and I will no longer be PF, I am representing the people of Roan as NDC member of parliament,” said Chishala.