CONSTITUTION Bill has been referred to the House illegally and it has to be withdrawn, says Chishimba Kambwili.
But scholar Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa argued that the claim that amending Zambia’s Constitution required the support of two-thirds of MPs at first reading is incorrect.
The National Democratic Congress president insisted that any Constitutional alteration required the support of two-thirds of MPs at the first reading.
He explained that when dealing with constitutional amendments, two bills are presented – one that asks the House to approve whether it should look at the constitution amendment bill, which required two-thirds majority to agree.
“They just presented the bill and the Speaker referred it to a select committee, which is wrong. It’s procedurally wrong,” Kambwili said. “When you are dealing with constitution amendments, you present two bills, there is one bill asking the House to approve whether you should look at the constitution amendment bill; that one requires two-thirds majority to agree, to authorise the House to look at the bill, the constitutional amendment. Once that bill passes, that’s when you produce the actual amendment to the bill to look at the clauses.” Kambwili, who served as member of parliament for three terms, recalled the National Constitution Conference Bill that was presented to the House by the MMD government was rejected at the first proposal.
“I am told that was not done, they just presented the bill containing the clauses, that is wrong! On the clauses, it’s simple majority but on introducing the bill that should discuss the clauses, it’s two thirds majority [of all members of the house] but that was not done and it’s procedurally wrong. If you go back during the NCC Act, we killed the bill as PF based on the first bill that was requesting the House to look at the amendments so it didn’t garner the two thirds majority,” he explained.
The NDC leader wondered who advises the Speaker for him to allow such illegality in the House.
“It has to be withdrawn, it’s illegal, it has been referred to the House illegally…. It has to be withdrawn and I think the people advising the Speaker must do the correct thing. It’s not right, it’s procedurally wrong because where is the two thirds majority now?” he asked. “On the actual individual clauses, it’s simple majority but the only bill that requires two thirds majority to introduce an amendment bill is bill number one of those two that are in…. If UPND walked out, all of them there was no two thirds majority, so who authorised the opening up of the Constitution to now look at the amendments? If the House goes ahead, it’s illegal, they cannot sit and if that is done, the Speaker must resign on moral grounds because then he would have abrogated the law. And if [Dr Patrick] Matibini insists then he has abrogated the law with impunity and I think it’s deliberate.”
Kambwili felt what the Speaker did was wrong and deliberate.
He wondered how the House managed to garner two-thirds majority if the UPND had walked out.
“It’s deliberate because these people want to do wrong things…go back in history, you will find that the NCC was killed because PF and UPND walked out on the first bill to introduce the amendment where it requires two thirds majority and you can go even in the verbatim and [then speaker Amusa] Mwanamwambwa even warned because what they did first failed and he repeated the vote again and warned that if this one does not go through then this House has no authority to look at the amendments,” Kambwili recalled. “So he called for the second vote and that’s when we moved out as PF and when UPND saw that PF had moved out, they also walked out and the two thirds majority collapsed. So the way they introduced it is illegal. That’s why I don’t know what’s happening with our Parliament and where we are going because [Edgar] Lungu is now able to manipulate everybody, this is very sad for democracy in Zambia. Just ask them a simple question, where does the two thirds majority come in? It’s on the introduction by debating the first bill.”
But scholar Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa argued that UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema’s claim that amending Zambia’s Constitution required the support of two-thirds of MPs at first reading was incorrect.
He said Hichilama’s statement was embarrassing and a dent on his credibility.
“Hichilema’s claim that amending #Zambia’s Constitution requires the support of two-thirds of MPs at first reading is false. It’s only at second and third readings where such support is required. At first, the Bill is merely introduced and assigned to a parliamentary committee,” he argued in a tweet.
“It’s embarrassing and a dent on his credibility that #Zambia’s main opposition leader is exhibiting unforgivable ignorance of basic provisions of the Constitution. I hope @HHichilema will take responsibility & apologise to the Speaker because he did nothing wrong. Who advises HH?.”
During Prime TV’s Oxygen of Democracy programme on Monday night, Hichilema said Dr Matibini tolerated a “sham” process in the House.
“Friday’s Parliament sitting was such a sham [and] I don’t even understand what Matibini was trying to do. This Constitution is sacred and to change anything in the Constitution, you have to go through two minimum steps. The first step is to put a motion on the floor of the House that we intend to touch this sacred document to amend it,” Hichilema explained.
“There must be a vote and you must get two thirds of members of parliament, not those who are in attendance on that day but all the members of parliament. If you get two thirds majority, which PF doesn’t have, then you can go to the next step and bring the bill, demonstrating the specific changes you want to make. [But] what these fellows tried to do, in a cheeky way, is to circumvent this process and bring the bill on the floor of the House directly. This is illegal!”
The opposition leader was puzzled that Dr Matibini allowed: “the cock-up” in Parliament on Friday.
He noted that the PF was trying to cheat Zambians on amending the Constitution.
“Parliament is a creation of the Constitution and so, Parliament cannot override the Constitution. [But] that’s what Matibini tried to do and he must be ashamed of himself for allowing such a sham, a cock-up to continue in the House. How did it end? Our members of parliament walked out and they couldn’t get the two thirds majority and I’m proud of the members of parliament,” Hichilema said.
“If they were doing the right thing, they should have succeeded on Friday. [But] they will not succeed!”