TRANSPARENCY International Zambia (TIZ) has condemned calls by Government Chief Whip Brian Mundubile to remove Article 52 in the current Constitution, which gives citizens the right to challenge the eligibility of candidates vying for public office under a specified period of time.

In an interview, TIZ executive director Maurice Nyambe said that citizens should be allowed to question the eligibility of any candidate vying for public office.

“According to our current Constitution, you and I as citizens have the right to go and challenge any candidature if we have sufficient grounds for doing so. So, our question is why is that (Article 52) a bad clause? Why should people feel nervous about that particular clause? We need to maintain it because we need that allowance for citizens to still be able to exercise their rights to take action or to do a petition against anyone, who they believe for whatever reason does not qualify to contest a particular position, then it will be left to Constitutional Court to make a determination,” Nyambe said.

“To remove that possibility for citizens, I don’t think it is for the best interest for the nation. Our call is that, definitely, that clause needs to stay in because we still need to provide that avenue for citizens to be able to question and to be able to go to court concerning anybody’s candidature. For us, this goes beyond an individual, even if that individual is the President of Zambia because the Constitution is a lot bigger than any one individual and it’s a lot more important than the interests of anyone.”

He added that the Constitution should never be used to deter or to protect an individual’s political ambitions.

“I think the issue, for us, is obviously very concerning when you look at the reasoning that he gave. He was saying that, ‘the article should be done away with because State Counsel John Sangwa wants to use it to bar President Lungu from contesting.’ The sad thing with our constitutional process is that we have seen in the past, clauses in the Constitution that have been pushed for the process of either fixing one person; if like we look at the 1996 one where Chiluba put in the parentage clause just to bar KK from standing,” recalled Nyambe.

“So, this tendency to push amendments that are simply targeting one person, either to hurt one person or to protect one person, I don’t think it is the way to go because it has not worked in the past and it has cost us dearly. What the Chief Whip stated I think is very concerning for us because we should not be doing constitution-making for the sake of protecting one individual because the Constitution is a national document and is something that really embodies our aspirations as citizens of Zambia. Everything that you do in relation to it should be done for the public good and not just for the interest of one person. I think for us that is something that we condemn.”