(By Namatama Njekwa and Tobias Phiri)
CHIRUNDU UPND member of parliament Douglas Syakalima has petitioned the Lusaka High Court seeking an order suspending the operation of the National Dialogue (Constitution, Electoral Process, Public Order and Political Parties) Act No 1 of 2019 pending determination of the petition.
Syakalima, who has cited the Attorney General in this petition filed in court, seeks an interim relief that the operation of the National Dialogue Forum be suspended, stating that the various fundamental rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Zambia (Amendment Act, 2016 have been, are being and are likely to be violated by the enforcement of the provisions of the Act.
The legislator is also seeking substantial reliefs, among them a declaration and order that the provisions of sections 3(h), 5, 6(2), 12, 17 (1) (a) and (b) and 18 (1) (a) of the National Dialogue (Constitution, Electoral Process, Public Order and Political Parties) Act No 1 of 2019 are in violation of the rights and freedoms of the petitioner in terms of Articles 11, 14, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23 of the Constitution.
He further seeks a declaration that provisions of section 3(h) 5, 6 (2) 12, 17 (1) (a) and (b) and 18 (1)(a) of the National Dialogue (Constitution, Electoral Process, Public Order and Political Parties) Act No 1 of 2019 are in conflict with the provisions of Articles 11, 12, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23 of the Constitution and therefore, null and void.
He stated that he participated in the deliberations and readings before the National Assembly and he unequivocally opposed the passing into law of the National Dialogue (Constitution, Electoral Process, Public Order and Political Parties) Act No 1 of 2019 of the Constitution, on grounds among others, that it was an affront to the Constitution, democracy and constitutionalism in the Republic of Zambia as by the law enshrined.
Meanwhile, the government has rejected the proposal to have an elected chairperson to lead the National Dialogue Forum.
Instead, President Edgar Lungu has nominated Professor Muyunda Mwanalushi to lead the NDF, which is set to run from April 23 to May 3 in Lusaka.
Justice minister Given Lubinda told the media yesterday that acting Secretary to the Cabinet Patrick Kangwa has since appointed the NDF secretary.
“The nominee of His Excellency the President to chair the Forum is Professor [Muyunda] Mwanalushi, that is the name I will be presenting to the Forum on Wednesday [next week] for ratification. He is an academic at the Copperbelt University,” Lubinda said. “The secretary appointed by the Secretary to the Cabinet is another veteran, he has been involved in a lot of different spheres of public life…he once chaired the Zambia Development Agency…this is no other than Patrick D. Chisanga.”
Lubinda added that seven out of nine proposed amendments had been granted by the government.
“On 2nd of April, Parliament passed the National Dialogue Bill. In passing the bill, the committee that was tasked to interrogate the bill and to receive submissions from members of the public, made nine proposed amendments to the bill. Of the nine, government graciously accepted seven,” he said.
“The one that was not accepted was the proposal that the chairperson of the Forum must be elected from amongst the members of the delegates. We looked at that proposal and considered it in view of the provisions of the Constitution and the Constitution is very clear in so far as appointing people to spearhead processes on behalf of the executive. The Constitution vests that responsibility in the Head of State…as such we could not accept that amendment.”
Lubinda said the denial to extend the siting period of the Forum beyond 10 days was to avoid past experiences.
The National Dialogue forum will start on 23rd of April with accreditation and registration while the President will officially open the Forum the following day at Mulungushi International Conference Centre.