TRANSPARENCY International Zambia (TI-Z) has insisted that it is concerned Constitution Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019 seeks to reverse all the gains that were made in the 2016 amendments.
In a statement, Monday, TI-Z president Rueben Lifuka said the process of enacting Bill 10 appeared to be driven by political interests.
“As our Parliamentarians resume their deliberations in the House tomorrow, we would like to remind them that the people of Zambia were widely consulted on what they wanted to see in their Constitution, most recently through the Technical Committee Drafting the Zambian Constitution and earlier through the Mung’omba Constitutional Review Commission. The amendments made after those two processes form the bulk of the contents of the current 2016 amended Constitution. Through those consultations, the people of Zambia clearly stated that they wanted a more transparent and accountable government that puts their interests above partisan and other interests. Thus, our view is that the 2016 amendments to the Constitution largely gave the people most of what they wanted. It was not perfect, but the result was arguably the most progressive Constitution that Zambia has ever had,” Lifuka stated.
“We are concerned as TI-Z that Bill No. 10 seeks to reverse all the gains that we have made and we therefore urge Parliamentarians to rise above partisan interests and reject this Bill in order to protect not just their individual and collective legacy, but also to protect the aspirations of the people they represent in the House. It is TI-Z’s belief that the primary loyalty of all Parliamentarians should lie with the people of Zambia rather than their political parties or interests, and we are cautiously hopeful that they will demonstrate this loyalty by rejecting Bill 10 when it comes up during this sitting of Parliament. It is our considered view and indeed that of many other stakeholders that through this ill-conceived Bill, the Executive is taking steps to undermine Zambia’s democracy by weakening the other branches of the government as well as independent oversight institutions such as Parliament.”
Lifuka said Bill 10 neither represented the views nor wishes of the Zambian people.
He said passing the bill in its current form would be a fatal blow to Zambia’s quest to have a constitution that represented the aspirations of the people.
“TI-Z believes that the number one duty of our parliamentarians is to protect the Republican Constitution and abide by what is enshrined in it. We verily believe that the Constitution, being the living embodiment of the aspirations of the Zambian people, should not be fundamentally altered in ways that seemingly promote partisan interests or that do not assure consensus-building around all or any part of its contents. As Parliament resumes its sittings tomorrow 9th June 2020, we would like to reiterate the concerns we raised on Constitutional Amendment Bill No. 10 of 2019 during our August 2019 submission to the Parliamentary Select Committee that was established to scrutinize this proposed piece of legislation,” Lifuka stated.
“We remain convinced now as we were then, that Bill No. 10 does not represent the views or wishes of the people of Zambia not just because of the hostile reception that it has received from different segments of Zambians, but also because of the apparent pass-it-at-all-costs approach that the Executive appears to have adopted over this Bill. Our biggest concern remains that the process of enacting Bill 10 appears to be driven by political interests over and above the interests of the people of Zambia as the most important stakeholder in the process, and we are convinced that passing the Bill in its current form will be a fatal blow to Zambia’s quest to have a Constitution that not only embodies the aspirations of the people, but also stands the test of time.”
Lifuka called for the bill to be withdrawn to in order to make room for a more consultative process.
“We are cognizant of the fact that the Select Committee that scrutinised the Bill, has produced a report that contains recommendations on some of the contentious provisions that many stakeholders highlighted in the Bill. However, based on precedence, it is clear that recommendations of a Parliamentary Committee are just that – recommendations, and there is no legal or other obligation that mandates the House to adopt any of those recommendations. The Bill will therefore be presented in its original form and it is our belief as TI-Z that there is a very real risk of it being passed in that form, notwithstanding the recommendations of the Select Committee,” stated Lifuka.
“We therefore reiterate our call for Bill 10 to be withdrawn in its entirety in order to make room for a more consultative process that will seek to build consensus on the specific articles on the 2016 amended Constitution that need to be addressed. We feel that there is no need to rush a process that will make fundamental changes to our Constitution, especially if that process is laden with suspicion and disagreements about its real intentions.”