The critical statement issued by Eddie Mwitwa, the president of the Law Association of Zambia, on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 has attracted a lot of attention on Facebook. Why?
It is because people realise that something has gone seriously wrong with the Constitution amendment process and a credible voice was being awaited from the Law Association of Zambia.
People had started to lose hope in the Law Association of Zambia’s ability and willingness to pronounce itself truthfully, objectively and courageously against what this government of Edgar Lungu was doing. It’s like a miracle has happened! Eddie has risen from the dead. Indeed, the politically dead Law Association of Zambia has resurrected itself – has risen from the dead.
We need all the politically dead to arise from the graves and take their stand against Edgar’s extremely evil Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019.
It’s late but not too late to do something about this Bill. We know that Edgar is not the type of man who mulls over things, considers feelings of others and yields. He is a stiff-necked politician who believes in not changing his mind, approach. Edgar probably sees yielding as a weakness, defeat.
Eddie says, “I have noted with grave concern the proposed amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Zambia. The Law Association of Zambia will be issuing a comprehensive statement on the proposed amendments soon but from the observations made so far, the amendments raise grave concerns.
The cry of most Zambians has been to reduce the blotted government expenditure so that the savings realised can be applied to improve service delivery to the majority poor. It is of concern therefore, that the amendments seek to reintroduce the position of Deputy Ministers which will increase expenditure. I have also noted with concern that the Constitution Amendment Bill creates Parliament but does not prescribe the number of members of parliament and leaves this very important task of stipulating the number of members of parliament to an Act of Parliament. In essence parliament has been empowered to create itself. This is anomalous as Parliament is a creature of the Constitution and its composition cannot be left to an Act of Parliament. Additionally, in most jurisdictions, the integrity of elections is negatively impacted by the creation of parliamentary constituencies in strongholds of one political party or another. This is technically called ‘gerrymandering’ and it is a matter that raises serious concerns where ever it rears its head.
I also note that the Constitution Amendment Bill does not stipulate the number of judges that should constitute the courts and this presents the possibility that successive governments can interfere with the composition of the courts to suit their sectional interests. Finally, the issue of a coalition government in a presidential system such as ours is very curious because coalition governments are only workable in a parliamentary system where the head of the executive is chosen from Parliament. In a parliamentary system the people therefore elect political parties who in turn select a leader to lead the political party in power and consequently the government. In Zambia, the people elect their President directly and to give the political parties the choice of selecting a President for the people of Zambia through a deal made between them would be to rob the Zambian people of the chance to elect their President. It is these and other issues that raise serious concerns over which the LAZ Council will be deliberating and issuing a comprehensive statement in due course. I must end by emphasising that the Constitution should be made to stand the test of time and must not be tailored to suit the present interests of any section of society. It must fit the needs of all the Zambian people for a long time to come.”
The dangers of this Constitution (Amendment) Bill go far beyond what Eddie is pointing out and raising concerns about.
And it was expecting too much from a constitution review process that is clearly flawed in its composition and methods to come up with acceptable amendments. This is where the Law Association of Zambia’s fight should have started and concerns should have been raised.
This is what happens when people go to sleep when very important national issues are being discussed!
Anyway, let’s rejoice, the Law Association of Zambia has risen from the politically dead!