UPND president Hakainde Hichilema on Thursday led his members of parliament in a dance party at his house after the Constitution Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019 fell off in Parliament.
The Bill, which had been subjected to several postponements, was finally put to a vote , but the ruling Patriotic Front failed to recruit the required two thirds majority at Second Reading to enact the law.
Hichilema mocked his rival and incumbent President Edgar Lungu, saying “Chi Bill 10 Chagwa” as opposition lawmakers went into a frenzy of jubilation at the defeat of Bill 10.
The parliamentarians, who stayed away from the House, watched the proceedings from Hichilema’s house in Lusaka’s New Kasama, and broke into song and dance as soon as the Speaker announced that the Bill had fallen off.
Addressing the members, Hichilema said he had never felt more honoured by the actions of his members of parliament.
“Our members of parliament, with the exception of three sell outs, you have made me very proud today. I always feel like this but today you have made me feel exceptionally proud. This is the unity we talk about every day. What our members of parliament have done today closes a long chapter. An unnecessarily long chapter, from the Siavonga meeting, Bill 10 was mooted by the PF, they wasted money at that workshop and they continued to waste money on the National Dialogue Forum. PUND will never waste money like that,” said Hichilema.
“We told them from the beginning that it would not work, here we are today. In English we call this a vision; ichimonwa, kuona kutali kutali uko. Today is the day when someone must calculate how much money has been wasted. They knew it because they were told, but they did not want to listen. This is what they do when they have stolen money and they are drunk with power. Only a useless government, a corrupt government can waste money like this.”
Earlier in the day, Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini announced that 105 members of parliament voted in the affirmative, therefore not meeting the two thirds majority needed for the bill to pass.
“The results of the poll are as follows. [The] Is, 105, Nos, 0, abstention, 0. The question is therefore less than the required threshold and accordingly negatived as less than two thirds of all members of the assembly have voted in their affirmative. Therefore the bill falls away,” said Speaker Matibini.
Majority of the UPND members of parliament were absent from the House with only six present, those being: Nalikwanda member of Parliament Professor Geoffrey Lungwangwa, Kasempa member of parliament Brenda Tambatamba, Monze Central member of parliament Jack Mwiimbu, Senanga member of parliament Mukumbuta Mulowa, Moomba member of parliament Fred Chaatila and Liuwa member of parliament Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane.
Despite being present, the UPND members did not participate in the vote and were seen rejoicing after the announcement of the result and mockingly signaled their colleagues to walk out after the defeat.
Some visibly angered and disappointed PF members of parliament walked out of the House after the vote was announced and Presidential Affairs Minister Freedom Sikazwe was seen frustratedly taking off his protective gear and throwing it on the seat before leaving the House.
Before the bill fell short of the two thirds majority by six votes, Mporokoso PF member of parliament Brian Mundubile said there was general consensus over the Bill, when the floor was open for debate.
He also wondered how the bill was poisonous when it simply advocated for the rights of citizens.
“It’s very surprising therefore when we hear certain political party leaders refer to Bill 10 as being poisonous. How is it poisonous when Bill 10 proposed to increase the number of women in parliament, is it poisonous when Bill 10 proposes to include the marginalised like the people living with disabilities, is it poisonous when the people of Chilubi have been crying that the constituency is too big, the need for delimitation, is that poisonous? Is that poisonous when the Christians of this country rise and say Zambia as a Christian nation should be enshrined in the constitution, maybe what is poisonous is that we are excluding gay rights that is why maybe it sounds poisonous. Because I don’t understand how someone can say the bill is poisonous when it upholds the Christian values of the nation,” said Mundubile.
And Cheembe PF member of parliament Dr Sebastian Kopulande said the country must move away from allowing innuendos to rule the country.
Kabwe Central PF member of parliament Tutwa Ngulube, who is also deputy government whip, SAID that whether the bill passed or not, it would be about what the people of Zambia wanted.
Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo said the PF meant well for the country and whatever the result of the vote, he urged citizens to know that they did their part and should not be blamed for its failure.
Meanwhile, in winding down debate after the bill fell off, Minister of Justice Given Lubinda, who was visibly emotional as he spoke, said government would continue to serve the Zambian people unlike those who came to the House with myopic interests.
“History is being recorded today and posterity shall read this history and we shall be judged by how we handle matters of state. I am very pleased to have been the shepherd of this process, I am very satisfied that the Zambian people today have been treated to this debate. Unfortunately, they have only listened to one side of the debate, the other side has chosen to remain mute and silent, they shall be forever. The fact that they have refused to speak here where they were allowed to come and speak on behalf of the 17 million people, they should know that they have lost that opportunity forever. Those who have spoken, my dear brothers and sisters, I want to urge you, let this campaign not end today. Let this campaign go out to the villages, let it go up on the mountains of Zambia, let it go in the valleys of this country. Let the people know and let the people understand who came to this house to represent them and who have used this House to represent themselves and to represent their myopic interests,” said Lubinda.
“So, I want to say that on this side, we have always been clear that this debate shall not be a question of numbers but shall be a question of morality, shall be a question of principal. And let those men and women who stand on the basis of principal take the armor of the day, let them be the ones who shall stand tall and say even when we were insulted and criticised because we believes in the principal of working for the Zambian people, not only the current population but the populations that shall inherit this country, the populations that shall be represented in here, through this Parliament, let them know that we stand firm, we are determined. We shall not stop here, Sir, I speak on behalf of these men and women, we shall continue to soldier on to provide the rights of the Zambian people to be represented here in Parliament.”
Meanwhile, several civil society organisations took to social media to celebrate the outcome of the vote. Transparency International Zambia president Rueben Lifuka told News Diggers in an interview that he hoped politicians would learn from this and always choose to listen to the people.
“Transparency International Zambia would like to express its gratitude to the Members of Parliament who stood on the right side of history and refused to selfishly endorse the controversial Bill 10. Many stakeholders pleaded with the PF government to withdraw the Bill and allow for consensus building but political arrogance and pride made the ruling party believe they would have their way even if this went against the grain of public opinion. We heard many of the leaders from the ruling party insist the Bill would be passed whether people criticised it or not. Clearly they became oblivious of the fact that ultimate power lies with the people,” said Lifuka.
“We hope that the political parties and players will reflect on this episode and recognise that they serve in the National Assembly on behalf of the voters and whenever any process is unclear or it is one that promotes division and polarisation of society, good leaders retreat and listen to the voices of the people. The failure of Bill 10 this time around just like the failure of the output of the National Constitutional Conference in 2010, is due to the fact that constitutional reforms in this country have been led by the political elite who want a document that is favourable to their political sustenance. The constitutional reforms should not be about politicians but about the people. Going forward, we would like to see a genuine process of consultation and engagement with all stakeholders, to craft a supreme law that commands the respect and obedience of all people.”