MINISTER of Justice Mulambo Haimbe says the constitutional amendment Bill number 10 will not be re-introduced to parliament because it was defeated.
And Haimbe says the introduction of the fast-track stolen assets mechanisms for corruption and economic crimes is important because it will urgently recover what belongs to the people.
Speaking when he featured on ZNBC’s Sunday Interview, Haimbe said any constitutional reform would be taken from a fresh perspective and would be consensus-driven.
“Certainly not, Bill 10 was defeated. Certainly, any constitutional reform will be taken from a fresh perspective. And it is very important that it is consensus-driven by the people of Zambia themselves. Bringing the past bills would not do any justice. We would like to ensure that this process of constitutional reform walks side by side with the people of Zambia and that is what the objective will be. We want to work on a stakeholder consultative basis. I do not blame you for being skeptical because we are coming from a difficult period in our lives. The process is getting the people buying into the constitution that we put in place,” Haimbe said.
“In my view, it is very urgent because we are sitting with the highest law in the land which has quite a few lacunas. We need to address that very quickly because it goes back to the very essence of you and I having a freedom of mind. There is an important aspect of those rights that need to be enshrined that perhaps are not properly captured in the current constitution. Unfortunately, it is a necessary evil because the constitution itself says you cannot touch the bill of rights without a referendum so it is a necessary evil.”
Haimbe said the UPND government would prioritize the amendment of the Public Order Act.
“For me, as long as it comes from the highest office in the land, at the very first opportunity where the President addresses Parliament and makes that commitment, it shows that he takes this matter of reviewing the Public Order Act seriously. And indeed, that instruction was certainly in the roadmap for the Ministry in ensuring that the Public Order Act meets the aspirations of the people of Zambia. So that we can have a free mind for us to do what we must in order to enjoy being a Zambian. I think the commitment has been made from that perspective,” he said.
“We are alive to the fact that there is need for order in the way we interact in the public spaces and in the way we have our processions. There is room for improvement and that room must come to meet the aspirations of the people of Zambia. So we will be looking critically at every aspect and see how we can improve it. Certainly, I can say for a fact that the whole essence of review and legislation would be to ensure that it meets our aspirations, so that we do not see what has happened in the recent past where you try to go [to] any part of the country and the Act is used as a means of preventing other people. There is need for the Zambia police service to be re-engaged in terms of the mode of training and all these other aspects. Certainly, it is something that I would advocate and lobby for as a member of parliament and cabinet.”
And Haimbe said the introduction of the fast-track stolen assets mechanisms for corruption and economic crimes was important because it would urgently recover what belonged to the people.
He added that the fight against corruption would not be a witch-hunt.
“There is clearly a situation where lots of public resources have been misapplied. We have seen strong allegations that individuals have benefited from public resources. So the essence is to get back property that is for the people of Zambia. Why fast-tracking? Part of the reason is that the economy as it is now, needs to be beefed up. So the sooner that we are able to get hold of these resources before they are depleted or expropriated outside the jurisdiction, the better. That is why a fast-track mechanism is being put in place. We need to look at fast-track courts not being new per se. It is new in respect of corruptly gained assets but this country has legislated before to ensure that certain areas are dealt with very quickly,” Haimbe said.
“For example, we have fast track courts in terms of traffic offences and GBV cases. It was made very clear that this is not a witch-hunt. It is all about accountability. The President said we will ensure that there is a benefit of honesty and this is a policy pronouncement that needs to be seen through. Corruption is corruption and people who have gotten gains from the people of Zambia must be dealt with regardless. The President was very clear about the past, present and future. If I fall short today in terms of corrupt activity, then I will be visited by the law. The cost of corruption must be high.”
Haimbe reiterated the need to ensure that there was no political interference in the Judiciary.
“We need to strengthen the laws so as to ensure that these institutions are able to perform their constitutional functions in a way that is in the interests of the people of Zambia. This is a new dawn and this is a fresh approach to how we do things in the country. There are areas of the Judiciary where we can improve in terms of access to justice and ensuring that the institution works in the way that it should in terms of separation of powers. Certainly, there is space for improvement. The way the judiciary functions, we have to ensure that there is no interference from a political perspective. The very first thing is to ensure that the institution remains independent and impartial. Citizens must be accorded quick access to justice,” he said.
“For administration purposes, there will be a process where there is interaction with all arms but at the end of the day, it is the legislature that determines to what extent the financial limit of other institutions. Functional independence in that regard is there, perhaps what we would be talking about is the actual economic status that we are in and that is where the lack of independence would come in. Sometimes it would be a question of having insufficient funds as a country and this is why it becomes important for us in the new dawn to be prudent in the use of the available resources. We need to be very innovative in ensuring that sources of income are increased. For me, this is where the brilliance of the speech by the head of state comes in because we have this new look at SMEs and how they can become part of the engine of increasing wealth of the country. With every process, there will be need to put in place a legal framework that will give it effect. And as the Ministry of Justice we will be very keen to ensure that we play our role.”
Haimbe stated that the constitutional reform process would be people-driven unlike what happened in the recent past.
“One of the key things that the President mentioned is to strengthen ECZ as an institution. Of course in doing that, one of the areas you would have to do that is the extent to which the executive function of government is able to influence what the ECZ can do. Everyone is entitled to their school of thought and others have also argued that the mode of appointment of the commissioners is something that needs to be looked at. It is about putting together those thoughts and determining the best course of action so as to ensure democratic aspirations are looked after,” said Haimbe.
“What we want to see is more engagement from the public as key stakeholders. We are coming from a past where those that hold office say ‘we are going to do this’ before there is stakeholder consultation and you would see the reversal of subsidiary pieces of legislation. My aspiration is to ensure that there is as much consultation as possible and the tools of doing that are available. For example, any bill that is to be tabled in the House would of course be after going through the formal processes via the technocrats. It would still have to be tabled before the necessary committee for review before it is enacted in the house.”