THE Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CiSCA) says it cannot just watch and keep quiet while the constitution is being trashed in a dustbin in a manner that has promoted high levels of lawlessness in the country. CiSCA chairperson Bishop John Mambo, in a speech read on his behalf by information and publicity chairperson McDonald Chipenzi, said they would not allow a situation where some Zambians appeared to be more equal than others and view themselves as more Zambian than everyone else.
Bishop Mambo expressed concern on the continued disregard of the Republican Constitution and the abuse of the public order Act.
“As concerned citizens, we cannot just watch and keep quiet while our Constitution is being trashed in a dustbin in this manner which has promoted high levels of lawlessness in this country. To this end, we want to address the following issues; Constitution refinement: since we last heard the government speak to this subject some two months ago that it would go ahead to publish the refined draft constitution in the government Gazette for public scrutiny following the delayed national dialogue and reconciliation,” he said. “CiSCA is concerned that no further guiding statement has been issued on this matter. We ask the government through the Ministry of Justice to inform the nation why government has gone mute on the constitution refinement after spending so much money in Siavonga with experts that came up with the invisible draft constitution.”
Bishop Mambo also challenged the Minister of Justice Given Lubinda to tell the nation where the refined draft constitution was.
“Unless, the government explains why it has lost momentum on this process, CiSCA will take it that this process has collapsed and was used as one of the best conduits to abuse government resources. We demand the release of and to see the refined draft constitution as a matter of urgency. If this is not done, CiSCA will go countrywide to conscietise citizens on this matter and pressure government to release the draft constitution against its will. Freedom of political parties to disseminate their messages: While the constitution grants equality upon all citizens, we have witnessed an unfortunate trend where some Zambians appear to be more equal than others, to the extent of viewing themselves as more Zambian than all other Zambians,” he said.
“We cannot accept such a situation. In addition to violating the Republican Constitution, we find it grossly immoral for this government to claim it respects multiparty democracy. The Constitution of the Republic of Zambia clearly provides, in Article 60 (1), that every political party in Zambia has a right to ‘disseminate information on social and economic programmes of a national character and of its political ideology’. However, we have noted a systematic breach of this provision by the government using the Zambia Police Service.”
Bishop Mambo said a number of political leaders have been denied their constitutional right and freedom to enjoy provisions of Article 60 as their meetings, movements, and association were either disrupted or curtailed by the police.
“We are aware that political leaders like Harry Kalaba and Chishimba Kambwili, associated with Democratic Party and National Democratic Congress, respectively, have consistently been clients of the police. This is against the constitution which empowers political parties and their leaders to canvass public support from citizens for the growth of their political parties. The constitution also provides for political parties to pursue intraparty democracy through processes such as primary elections,” he said.
Bishop Mambo said it was CiSCA’s hope and belief that political parties would respect the provision and hold intraparty elections such as conventions ahead of the 2021 general elections.
He also noted with sadness that intraparty democracy was slowly being undermined by the failure by political parties to hold interparty elections.
“In addition, CiSCA is concerned that the Political Parties’ Bill which was supposed to operationalise Article 60 has been shelved indefinitely by the government. This will contribute to continued undermining of intraparty democracy that is clearly provided for and guaranteed in the constitution,” he said.
Bishop Mambo said it had been some time since President Lungu mentioned the need to review the public order Act.
He said undoubtedly, one of the most draconian pieces of legislation in the statute books, which was also one of the most abused, was the public order Act of 1955.
“In the meantime, while the President and government continue to give lip-service about this important assignment, the Public Order Act continues to be used as a weapon to silence any dissenting voices, including that of NGOs as it happened in Ndola where NGOs representatives and pastors were arrested on account that they wanted to discuss a political topic. When did discussing politics become outlawed in Zambia? “ he asked. “The cases of people whose rights and freedoms of association, expression and assembly have been infringed upon using this draconian piece of legislation are too many to mention. Further, this call for the review of the Public Order Act will be meaningless if the Constitution remains unattended to. So, let government give us the refined draft constitution before heading to the review of the Public Order Act as starting with the review of the Act may suggest revisiting the Act once the Constitution is finally enacted.”
Bishop Mambo said it seemed the government was everywhere and anywhere on the issue of enactment and review of pieces of legislation.
“For instance, this government is on record promising Zambians of the enactment of the Access to Information law, the Political Parties’ Bill, the refined draft constitution, among others. But to date, nothing has been done, actually muteness has been the order of the day. Now the government has jumped to talk about the review of the Public Order Act, which may also be shelved after receiving submissions from the people,” he said. “While money is being wasted in consultations on legal reforms that do not produce anything at the end of the day, Zambians remain expectant and taken for granted. It is on this score that we challenge the Ministry of Justice to explain why it has adopted this kind of approach to law making in Zambia. “
On dialogue, Bishop Mambo called on all stakeholders to allow the church to handle the process.
“We are surprised that the Church’s leadership in this process is being contested and yet, just a few weeks ago, the country was observing the day of national prayers, fasting and reconciliation led not by the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue (ZCID) but by the Church and attended by political party leaders,” said Bishop Mambo. “This puts the church on an advantage to facilitate, lead and chair the entire process like it did during the Day of Prayer, Fasting and Reconciliation. Therefore, we call on the ZCID and those supporting them to allow the church to play its prophetic role and realise that the Church is best positioned to handle such a process as its track record does show.”