JUSTICE Minister Given Lubinda says government will only propose amendments to Article 58 of the Constitution which provides for the delimitation process after the elections.

And Lubinda says the fall of Bill 10 will continue to haunt the UPND until President Edgar Lungu is sworn into office after the August 12 election.

Speaking when he rendered a ministerial statement in Parliament, Tuesday, Lubinda said the Bill could not be introduced before the upcoming general election, hence the decision to introduce it afterwards.

“Following the failure to enact the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill No.10 of 2019, which obviously and clearly could have provided for an increased number of members of parliament, both through increased elected seats and through members elected to represent special groups that cannot adequately be represented through the First Past the Post System, it is necessary to introduce another Bill in Parliament to revise the number of elected seats in the National Assembly based on the delimitation report. It must be noted, however, that it will not be possible to practically implement the delimitation of the constituencies before the 2021 general election owing to time constraints relating to the legislative powers and the administrative processes that would follow,” Lubinda said.

Lubinda vowed that setbacks such as the defeated Bill 10 would be a thing of the past after this year’s polls.

“Let me end on a positive note by assuring the August House and the nation at large that President Lungu’s resolve to enhance people’s direct participation in the governance of their country has not in any way been affected by these developments. Instead, it has grown even stronger! He pledges to the Zambian people that this temporary setback shall be a thing of the past come September, 2021, when his government shall, again, embark on a spirited journey of increasing representation of the citizens in their Parliament and their councils. The Patriotic Front government generally remains committed to implement the delimitation process and this will be done immediately after the 2021 general election,” Lubinda added.

And in response to Katombora UPND member of parliament Derrick Livune, who asked why the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) report on delimitation had to be subject to consultation, Lubinda explained that all Bills that go to Parliament have to be gazetted, adding that a Bill could not go straight to Parliament on the premise that it came from the ECZ.

“Those who care to read the Constitution of Zambia, and I hope all members of parliament including him (Livune) have had at least on one occasion read the Constitution of Zambia, will know that Article 79 is very instructive on how the Constitution would be amended. It states very clearly that, ‘before any Bill to amend the Constitution is presented to Parliament, it ought to be gazetted.’ What is the purpose of the gazetting? It is so that Zambians express their views, there is nowhere in the Constitution of Zambia where it says, ‘because this report has come from the ECZ, therefore, the Bill emanating from there can go to Parliament expressly without being gazetted…’ The gazetting is a form of consultation with the Zambian people. I thank you, Sir,” he replied.

Further, in response to Chiengi FDD member of parliament Given Katuta, who was asked if it was feasible to allow for the amendment before the August 12 polls, Lubinda said allowing delimitation would mean re-registration of voters, which was not feasible due to lack of time.

“The point I make, Sir, is that it is just not practically possible to amend Article 58 at this late hour in the elections programme. As my honourable colleague would be aware the Electoral Commission of Zambia has already conducted voter registration, and as you are well aware, the registration of voters in Zambia is constituency-based. So, if we were to go ahead now and increase the number of constituencies, what will that imply? It will imply re-registering. Now, you have heard the complaints that have been made on the floor of this House about the registration process; you have heard how people were saying, ‘give us more time to register because the time you have given us is not enough!’ If we were to try and undertake that process, it will certainly conflict with the Constitution, which has set a particular date on which to conduct elections. To that extent, to attempt to do this, indeed, would be drinking from a poison chalice,” he replied.

Meanwhile, Msanzala PF member of parliament Peter Daka asked when the new constituencies will take effect after delimitation, to which Lubinda responded that the new constituencies would only take effect after the 2026 general election.

“Sir, indeed, it is also provided in the Constitution that when you amend the number of seats in Parliament, they take effect after the next general election. So, had we amended Bill 10, or those amendments to do with the number of seats and the one to do with Proportional Representation, that would have taken effect in the elections of August, 2021. We are now found in this very unfortunate situation where the only opportunity we will have to increase membership in this House shall be after the 2026 elections. The period between 2021 and 2026, unfortunately, the people of Zambia will not be as well represented; they would have been hadn’t those in this House, who celebrated on ‘wine and chicken’ not done so, that would have taken effect immediately after the August elections,” he responded.

And in response to Luampa UPND member of parliament, who wanted to find out why delimitation had to be brought together with other laws, which were not in favour of citizens, Lubinda expressed shock that a member of parliament did not know that MPs had the power to select which proposals would pass amendment.

“I could have been rather surprised then had I been asked that question; now I am shocked to be asked such a question! But Sir, the reason I am shocked is because I was hoping that the Honourable member of parliament for Luampa knows how laws are passed by this House, that he knows how Bills are presented to this House, and that he is aware that what is presented by anybody be it government or an opposition member or any backbencher is subject to further scrutiny and cleaning up by this House. Sir, at that time, government was completely convinced without any iota of doubt, we were convinced that all of us gathered in this House know what making laws is all about. We were convinced, Sir, that in the event that there was any proposed amendment, which did not sit well with either an individual member or with a grouping, then they would come to Parliament and debate it in Parliament and convince each other that, ‘this one, let us not amend’,” Lubinda said in astonishment.

“That is what we believed. We did not realise that we were dealing with people who don’t know that they had that power. Had I known that, Sir, the approach would have been different. So, I want to apologise to the Zambian people that I overestimated the capacity of some members of parliament! I really believed, and government believed that we understood how to legislate, but today I am shocked to learn that there are some members of parliament who don’t seem to understand the process of legislation.”

Lubinda, who is also Kabwata PF member of parliament, charged that the fall of Bill 10 will continue to haunt the UPND until President Lungu is sworn into office after the August election.

“Sir, when there was a celebration on ‘carton box four and chicken wings,’ I stood here, Sir, and I said, ‘indeed, we in the PF have lost the numbers. However, we have not lost the moral ground,’ that’s what I said. I also did indicate that those who are celebrating today, Bill 10 and are calling it ‘dead’ shall see the resurrection of the ghost of Bill 10! Today, the ghost of Bill 10 is around and it is watching over those people who killed it. And is haunting them, it is haunting them and it shall haunt them until President Edgar Chagwa Lungu is sworn in. Then, they will start to ask themselves, ‘do they still have relevance on the political scene?’ Mark my words, that day shall come,” said Lubinda.