Intellectuals should emulate Prof Ndulo, John Sangwa’s bravery

Even in the rubbish bin, when you look properly, you can still find something useful, but it doesn’t change the fact that it belongs in the rubbish bin, Professor Muna Ndulo told Kabwe Central Member of parliament Honourable Tutwa Ngulube who said Zambians must not reject the whole Constitutional Amendment Bill No. 10 because it has some progressive proposals.

This was during a News Diggers organized public discussion forum on the dangers of enacting Constitutional Amendment Bill No. 10, 2019, held at Lusaka’s Southern Sun Hotel last Friday. In our view, this was one of the most successful discussion forums ever organized, and we would like our intellectuals in Zambia, and those governing this country, to draw some lessons.

We can bet with anyone that the majority of Zambians who oppose the Constitution Amendment Bill No.10 don’t know what is wrong with it. Some are rejecting it because they simply hate the Patriotic Front; others are opposed to its enactment because a popular activist posted on Facebook that it is “a bad law”. When you ask them, they can’t explain, apart from saying PF are criminals who are trying to manipulate the Constitution. What this means is that the majority of citizens are simply following the wind – a situation which is dangerous if left unchanged.

Very few voters actually understand exactly what is wrong with the Constitution Amendment Bill No.10 and why Zambians must reject it. We would like to heap this blame on the Intellectuals. Our intellectuals in Zambia are cowards, at least most of them. They are afraid to face the powers that be and stop the bad governance. They have the knowledge, but they don’t want to share it with those who don’t have. They criticize the government from the confines of their comfort zones where they mingle with their fellow elites. They keep away from solution-seeking public discourse, because they have no courage – yet they brag about their academic credentials. Meanwhile, in their absence, functional illiterates are busy sharing ignorance on Facebook.

This is what Prof Muna Ndulo and State Counsel John Sangwa said “NO” to last Friday. They refused to be among the intellectuals who were minding their business while government leaders mooted a scheme to mutilate the Constitution and execute it. Prof Ndulo and State Counsel Sangwa chose to do their part and let the citizens of this country decide what they wish to do with the information shared.

According to learned State Counsel Sangwa, President Edgar Lungu ceded a significant amount of power when he signed the 2016 Constitution Amendment Bill. In so doing, he trashed a Constitution that would have made him win the elections that year with an easy majority, and adopted one which required that he gunners 50+1 per cent of the vote threshold.

“I did not believe he could go ahead and sign that Bill in 2016. Now someone must have told him that he made a huge mistake. So this Constitution Amendment Bill No.10 of 2019 is about undoing the gains made by the 2016 Amendment Bill. They want to reclaim the power which they lost in 2016. That’s why they are introducing provisions such as ‘coalition government’. The current Constitution says if you don’t get 50 per cent plus 1 votes, the top two front runners must go for a rerun; simple and straight forward. What is the coalition government for? They want it so that a President can decide who forms government with his party instead of going for a rerun…This is crazy! It’s madness! But I have faith in the Zambian voters because they are not foolish, if they were foolish, Kaunda would still be President after 1991, Chiluba would have stood for a third term and Rupiah Banda would have won in 2011,” said State Counsel Sangwa.

This is the bravery and patriotism that we want the rest of our intellectuals in this country to emulate. When the educated demonstrate this level of courage, government leaders can’t fool citizens, they can’t get away with criminality. We want to see more intellectuals taking a leading role in educating the masses so that citizens can make well-informed decisions when the time comes for choosing their leaders – not just following the wind.

For the Patriotic Front, the lesson to pick from this event is that people have spoken. When we organised this event, we underrated the level of interest that Zambians have in this topic; that is why we chose Southern Sun Hotel for the venue. The conference hall was packed long before the event could start. There was hardly any space left to stand in the conference hall and hundreds of people were turned away by hotel security because the building couldn’t take any more people.

Of all the people who participated from the audience, only three argued in favour of this Constitution Amendment Bill. Those were Kabwe Central member of Parliament Honourable Ngulube, YALI governance advisor Isaac Mwanza and another man who only introduced himself as “a politician who attended the National Dialogue Forum”. The rest of the packed house rejected the Bill and demanded that it is withdrawn from Parliament. If you don’t want to listen to these citizens’ demands, then who are you governing?

Lastly, Patriotic Front leaders must emulate Honourable Ngulube’s courage to face the people. Good leaders must always find time to interface with the people they governance so that they can assess the mood of society. He may have disagreed with what everyone else was saying, but we are certain that Honourable Ngulube now understands how serious Zambians are about this issue. Let Cabinet ministers show their faces to the public so that they, too, can see what Honourable Ngulube saw on Friday.

Come out Honourable Given Lubinda, Zambians want to have a word with you. The Bible says when a man slaps you on the left cheek, you must offer the right one too. Tiyembekeza!

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