NATIONAL Democratic Congress (NDC) president Chishimba Kambwili says it is shocking that government is restoring the Constitution Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019 in Parliament when the country is engulfed in an economic crisis.

And Kambwili says the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) wants to use the online voter registration exercise to reduce the number of people who will register and make it easy to rig the 2021 elections.

Meanwhile, Kambwili says DMMU national coordinator Chanda Kabwe must resign and join politics because he conducts himself as a politician.

In an interview, Kambwili argued that the current sitting of Parliament should be used to debate the 2021 national budget and not Bill 10, which had lapsed in June, this year.

“I really don’t understand the priorities of this government. The kwacha is K20 to a dollar and this period is a budget sitting, and despite being a budget period, the hours of Parliament have been reduced to only three hours. They are sitting from 14:30hrs to 17hrs, what time do they have to slot in these Bills? The concentration from this limited time that they have should have been the budget because it is only the budget that can have an effect on our ailing economy, which is in ICU (Intensive Care Unit). I really don’t understand them, President Lungu, wherever he goes…even now, he continues telling people, ‘we are coming to build this,’ [yet] we are sitting on a debt of US $18 billion and from his own mouth, he said, ‘90 per cent of the budget is spent on salaries and paying debt,’ we don’t have the money,” Kambwili said.

“The prices of commodities are going up because of the rate of the kwacha to the dollar, and the fact that we don’t have industries of our own, then you go and prioritise Bill 10, what are you telling the people? Are you serious? President Lungu has told us, ‘the economy will rebound next year.’ How is it going to rebound when they have three hours of the budget and these three hours, they slot in Bills? This sitting should have been dedicated 100 per cent to the budget so that we can save our economy.”

Kambwili said the PF’s persistence to enact Bill 10 into law was a sign that the proposed piece of legislation was a gimmick to perpetuate their stay in power.

“More often than not, Parliament has very little time, even when they are sitting normal hours to do the budget. Why would they prioritise Bill 10? Surely, this is where the Zambians must know that Bill 10 is nothing, but a gimmick by the PF to perpetuate their stay in power. There are hidden things in there. For me, I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt that this thing they have said that they have rejected coalition government, they are just pretending…once the Bill goes on the floor of the House, MPs will vote for it because they know it is a survivor. The government will just come and say, ‘we instructed our MPs, but we can’t tell them what to do’,” Kambwili said.

“So, my conviction, and I am saying this without malice, I would rather the government concentrate on the economic aspect, which is the budget. We want to see proper debates on the budget, if you limit the debate on the budget, issues will not come out because more time will now be spent on Bill 10. You can even see the PF’s concentration; they are not even talking about the budget! When you hear my young brother, Honourable (Tutwa) Ngulube, he talks about Bill 10; when you hear Mundubile, he talks about Bill 10; when you hear the Vice-President (Inonge Wina), she talks about Bill 10; you listen to the President, he talks about Bill 10. If you listen to any of these Ministers, it is Bill 10, meaning, therefore, that is what they have prioritised in an ailing economy that is in an ICU. God help Zambia!”

The former Roan PF member of parliament, however, proposed that Bill 10 be suspended and only restored in Parliament after the 2021 general election.

And at a media briefing, Tuesday, Kambwili said ECZ wanted to make it easy to rig the 2021 elections by disadvantaging voters with the online voter pre-registration exercise.

“This Government of PF has failed to take ICT lessons to primary and secondary schools in the rural areas because there is no internet connectivity and there are no computers. Now, you cannot go on TV and address people to say only those who will do online voter registration will be attended to exclusively during the mobile voter registration, meaning therefore that those that do not preregister online will not be considered to be on the voter register. My dear brother, just ask yourself where you come from in Eastern Province, does your mother have the internet? Does your mother have a smartphone? If your own mother Mr Chulu or Mrs Emily Sikazwe doesn’t have a smartphone and internet connectivity, how then do you expect those people in the rural areas to participate in the online voter registration?” Kambwili asked.

Kambwili charged that the ECZ wanted to disenfranchise people.

“Since the last elections, you knew that there would be an election in August this year. So what are you telling us? That ‘we don’t have time and there will be no extension.’ Why did you have to wait all this time so that at the last minute you say there is no time and do it haphazardly so that you disfranchise people? My dear brothers and sisters in the commission, you issue NRCs in Northern Province which is perceived to be a stronghold of the PF and then before you issue NRCs in other areas, you have started voter registration. What happens to those who haven’t gotten registration numbers in these areas? You have disfranchised them. All you want to do is to reduce the number of people who are going to vote because you know that when a lot of people register to vote, it will be very difficult to rig. So, you want to deal with a small number that you can manipulate,” Kambwili said.

He appealed to the commission to revert to the physical registration and give it a minimum of three months for people to register.

Meanwhile, Kambwili said Kabwe should resign and join politics if he wants to conduct himself like a politician.

“Disasters now are only in areas where there are elections. That is where we are seeing the coordinator spend time distributing things during by-elections. Chanda Kabwe mwaiche (young man), if you want to join politics, resign from that position and follow President Edgar Lungu and the PF when they go to campaign and we will have no problem with you. But if you are earning a salary from tax payers money, listen to what we are telling you. I have nothing against you but as your relative, I am getting worried about your conduct and how you are being used. And when the time comes for you to answer, all those people who are using you will not be there. You are a controlling officer and you are the ones who signs and approves that this mealie meal should go to Lukashya or to Mwansabombwe,” said Kambwili.

“Chanda Kabwe, stay out of politics and do your job. Stick to your lane. At the rate you are going, I feel sorry for you as my younger brother. And the problem is that you love TV, everywhere you go, you carry reporters with you so that they can film you. That will be the evidence to be used against you. Which by-election Chanda Kabwe haven’t you been to? We had Mr Patrick Kangwa as coordinator and who knew him? But for you, even the chickens have known you. You will be in trouble. And please President Edgar Lungu, let’s follow the right procedure of declaring disasters and let’s do it at the right time. And when these disasters happen, let’s not wait for by-elections to happen for us to take support to areas where there are by-elections.”