THE Law Association of Zambia says gazettion of amendments to Constitution Amendment Bill number 10 of 2019 is unlawful and meant to sway public opinion on the bill.
In a statement, Tuesday, LAZ stated that it was concerned that the publication in Government Gazette No. 534 of 2020 dated 12th June, 2020 of the Constitution Amendment Bill did not form part of the bill that was introduced at first reading in parliament last year.
“The Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) is deeply concerned by the publication in the Government Gazette No. 534 of 2020 dated 12th June 2020 of the Constitution Amendment Bill No. 10 of 2019, which contains numerous proposed amendments to the republican Constitution, which are different from the original Bill published in Gazette Notice No. 660 of Friday, 21st June, 2019 preceding its presentation in Parliament for First reading on Friday, 2nd August,2019.This is concerning to LAZ as the newly published amendments do not form part of the bill as introduced at first reading in Parliament by government and its publication in the gazette may only serve to sway public opinion on the Bill without guaranteeing its enactment and its re-publication is not supported by law,” read the statement issued by the Council of the Law Association of Zambia.
“LAZ has perused the Standing orders 2016, which regulate the procedure of the National Assembly and its conduct of business including stages of a bill. According to the Standing orders 2016, a bill to amend the constitution cannot be passed unless at least thirty days before the first reading of the bill in the Assembly, the text of the bill is published in the Gazette and the bill is supported on second and third readings by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all the members of the Assembly. When a bill has been read the first time, it is committed to an appropriate committee for examination and at second reading, parliament proceeds to consider the bill taking into account the report of the Committee.The committee of the National Assembly reports to the whole house and it is only the committee which has power to propose an amendment to a Bill for consideration of the whole House. Procedure for amendments to bills is clearly spelt out in the Standing Orders.”
LAZ stated that there was no procedure which permitted government to publish in the government gazette different texts to amend the constitution which was already going through the stages established by the Standing Orders.
“LAZ therefore finds it strange and concerning that before the Committee on Bill No 10 of 2019 could report to the whole House, together with its proposed amendments thereon for debate during second reading of the Bill, the government has opted to accept some of the committee’s recommendations and reject many others and publish another version of the same Bill containing what government considers acceptable,” read the statement.
“It is LAZ’s position that there is no procedure which permits government to publish in the government Gazette different texts of a Bill to amend the Constitution which is already going through the stages as established by Standing Orders promulgated under Article 77 of the Constitution of Zambia. Government cannot cherry pick what it considers desirable proposals of a Committee and reject numerous others and publish the same purporting to form part of the Bill.”
LAZ stated it would be a serious breach of the Constitution if government went ahead to present the published purported amended Bill 10 in Parliament.
“In the event that government supports some of the proposed amendments by the Committee, it must support the same on the floor of the house during the debate at second reading at which event a vote will be called, requiring the support of not less than two-thirds of all the members of the Assembly, for the Bill to progress to third reading,” the statement read.
“If government agrees with numerous stakeholders including LAZ that Bill No. 10 of 2019 is retrogressive, as the publishing of another version of the same bill appears to suggest it must withdraw the current Bill No. 10 of 2019 from Parliament in its entirety and not present the purported Amended Bill No. 10 of 2019 n Parliament. Doing otherwise will be a serious breach of the Republican Constitution and will not be in tandem with the rule of law, upon which LAZ was founded and mandated to promote and protect.”