IN our view, the National Dialogue Forum did not live up to its name in terms of achieving the objective of fostering reconciliation on the political landscape, Civil Society Organisations have said.
And the organisations say Zambians must be worried that the PF political architecture is a danger to the peace and stability of our great nation.
The civil society organisations, the three church mother bodies, and concerned citizens who gathered at Kapingila House in Lusaka yesterday noted that the initial national dialogue process was proposed as a platform to bring together political actors and other stakeholders to deal with the tension that had arisen and continues to polarise the country on the basis of political, tribal, religious and sector affiliation.
In a statement read by the Nalucha Ziba, the civil society organisations (CSOs), however, observed that the dialogue process was turned into a legislative process, principally to amend the constitution as well as amend the Public order Act, Electoral process Act and to review the political party Bill.
CSOs said the national constitution, being the supreme law of the land, must be respected and its sanctity preserved and therefore its change could not be simplified to the NDF process which was recently held which lacked national consensus and inclusiveness.
“We are also concerned that the NDF does not offer credible platform that could be entrusted with the responsibility to deal with constitutional matters. The forum lacked transparency, as citizens were not provided with the opportunity to participate and contribute to whatever was going on in the forum. The law also criminalised the sharing of ‘public information’ and so all delegates traded carefully. His Worship the Mayor of Kitwe, Mr Kang’ombe, was a victim of the rules of this club,” read the statement.
“We must be worried that the PF political architecture is a danger to the peace and stability of our great nation. Citizens manipulation through a politically driven outfit, the NDF, is an unfortunate undertaking that attempts to reduce the sanctity of the constitution making process even to any ‘legislated canteen’ in Chibolya (in Lusaka) or Twapya (in Ndola) compounds. The NDF totally deviated even from the commitments and assurances by both the Minister of Justice Honourable Given Lubinda and the Republican President, His Excellence Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu,” Ziba stated.
“The Republican President in his speech on the opening on NDF said, ‘I wish to state from the outset that this forum is a quality assurance validation forum and, therefore, we do not expect new submissions. Rather, we are expected to provide inputs or clarifications on earlier submissions, which were made. This is in order to refine our constitution and governance-related legislation such as the public order act, electoral process act and the political parties bill’.”
The CSOs noted that the NDF, rather than refining the Constitution, instead proposed substantial changes, which in turn would trigger various substantive changes to the Constitution thereby changing constitutional order in Zambia.
They further noted that the proposal on the coalition government had been made without any indication of the model to be followed for a coalition government.
“We wish to remind the country and the delegates to the NDF that Zambians have been desirous of a majoritarian government and have made this known through the various constitution review processes. We ask these delegates a question as when did Zambians ask for a coalition government?” Ziba asked.
The CSOs added that the proposal was therefore fundamentally inconsistent with the Zambian presidential system as it essentially proposes the conjoining of individuals to form government.
“The proposal has been made without any indication of the model to be followed for a coalition government. The current 50%+1 applies to the presidential system during a presidential election. Yet we all know that in a presidential system, the voters elect a President by direct votes and not by combining vote of contestants which would subvert the will of the people, in which case the forum proposes to force of rule of the people by those rejected by the people,” stated the CSOs.
The CSOs urged all political parties to canvass enough support from the people and genuinely form government based on 50 per cent +1 vote as was generously submitted by Zambians through previous constitutional making processes as highlighted earlier.
“The Patriotic Front (PF) led Forum must never devise the back door mechanism of forming government as a political party. The appetite to hang on to power by the current crop of politician is worrisome; and surely undermines our young democracy. It is thus regrettable that the NDF was used as a safe passage of unjustifiable doctrine of democracy. The proposed Coalition government approach is merely a simple majority that the Zambian citizens have consistently rejected.”
The CSOs also noted that Zambians had resoundingly rejected the position of deputy ministers through various submissions not only due to costs but also the fact that the roles do not add much value.
The CSOs said the people had called for a lean cabinet or executive arm of government.
“It is strange that the same NDF that has proposed the introduction of a coalition government on account of cost is proposing the re-introduction of unwanted costly provisions such as the reintroduction of deputy ministers which will place a further burden on the national treasury,” the CSOs said.
The CSOs further said they were baffled at the NDF’s proposal to only dissolve Parliament after the general election and not three months before the election as was constitutionally provided, which provision was upheld by the Constitutional Court of Zambia in 2016.
“The proposal by the NDF was made on the basis that members of parliament should serve a full 5-year-term of office. We are puzzled as to what mischief they were trying to cure with this proposal. We know that members of parliament have always received their gratuity for a full 5-year term and therefore we cannot see what loss they would incur when Parliament dissolved 90 days to the Election Day,” Ziba said.
The CSOs further said they found the proposal unfair as it is entirely meant to perpetuate incumbency and in the case of ministers so as to allow them to use government resources to mobilise and campaign.