PRESIDENT Lungu’s conscience is tormented, says former secretary to the cabinet Sketchley Sacika.
He says the proposed national dialogue bill is President Edgar Lungu’s way of avoiding interparty dialogue so that he can take full control of the process of amending the public order Act and the Constitution.
Sacika argued that national dialogue ought not be a matter of legislation.
Government is in the process of establishing a bloated National Dialogue Forum (NDF) whose objective, among other things, would be to provide for a national dialogue process to facilitate the Constitution refinement process, regulation of political parties, public order and electoral process reforms.
The NDF would be headed by a chairperson appointed by the Republican President.
The three church-mother bodies, the opposition alliance and 10 civil society organisations and two individuals have since rejected the national dialogue bill that would lead to the formation of the NDF.
“It shouldn’t be legislated! The proposed law is, to me, the clearest indication yet that President Lungu has never been interested in interparty dialogue to resolve issues arising from a porous political environment in our country,” Sacika said in an interview.
“The proposed law is President Lungu’s way of avoiding interparty dialogue so that he can take full control of the process of amending the public order Act and the Constitution, without the involvement of other key political players in the country.”
He explained that President Lungu appeared to have two major problems.
Sacika said the President’s first problem was that he did not want to sit at the same table with “HH (Hakainde Hichilema) because HH does not recognise him as the President of Zambia.”
“The second problem is that President Lungu’s conscience is tormented. He arrested HH, an innocent man, on trumped-up charges of treason and put him away for over three months. It is easy for HH to forgive and forget this injustice but President Lungu is finding it difficult to do so,” Sacika noted.
Sacika pointed out that the proposed bill was ill-conceived and that it would not serve long-term interests of Zambia.
He emphasised that amending or refining the Constitution should not be a partisan affair.
“A Constitution which is able to stand the test of time can only come out of a concerted process involving all the key players in the country. The current Constitution is in a mess because it’s a product of the PF’s partisan interests!” he said.
“The PF disregarded the important recommendations of the National Constitution Conference and the Technical Committee…. The result was a cannibalised Constitution full of lacunas and inconsistencies.”
He cautioned that if President Lungu went ahead with his plans of strategically amending the Constitution, his achievement would be short-lived.
“As soon as there is a new government, they will undo everything and start afresh. Zambia will earn the distinction or dishonour of being a country where every political party that comes into power draws up its own constitution,” Sacika explained.
“This cannot be in the interest of political stability of our country. Laws should not be made to deal with a specific issue; they should be made to deal with a condition which is likely to recur. Of what use will President Lungu’s law on amending the Constitution after it has achieved its purpose? Nothing!”
And Sacika observed that there was no justification for spending huge amounts of public funds at a time when the country was “cash-strapped, on an exercise which can be accomplished through more acceptable and less expensive means.”
“My appeal to President Lungu is that he should seriously consider withdrawing the proposed bill and look at the best ways of dealing with the political issues of the day,” he said.
Sacika said it was wrong to deal with amendments to the public order Act at the same time as amendments to the Constitution.
He noted that the public order Act must be removed from the constitution-making process and be dealt with as a separate issue.
“The public order Act is unconstitutional in its present form and amendments to it should be done now, they should not be delayed any further. In 1996 the Supreme Court passed a judgment in the Mulundika case; in that judgment the chief justice at the time, Matthew Ngulube, clearly stated that the public order Act was unconstitutional,” recalled Sacika.
“But instead of the MMD government undertaking major amendments to the Act, they only made superficial amendments and left the concept of the Act intact. As a result, the Act has been used for political reasons by a political party in power.”