REMEMBER them when voting in 2021 if they pass Bill 10 into law, says Law Association of Zambia president Eddie Mwitwa.
And Transparency International Zambia executive director Wesley Chibamba who read a statement on behalf over 10 other civil society organisations opposed to enacting Bill 10 into law, says once passed, Zambia will become a one party dictatorship.
Mwitwa appealed to LAZ members in Parliament to remember their oath to protect the constitution.
“Our duty as lawyers when we are called to the bar it is to preserve, protect and promote the constitution, that is a solemn oath that we take when we decide to join this noble profession. I want to appeal to the members of LAZ who are also members of parliament that they will forever remember what their duty to the constitution is and their duty to the people of Zambia to defend the constitution of Zambia,” he said.
“As they do their duty in Parliament and participate in the debate and voting on this bill, we appeal to them to remember that their duty to the course of justice and the protection of the constitution is much higher than their duty to their political parties that hey represent. …as an association, we have come out that we do not support this bill and we hope they will also take a similar stance.”
Mwitwa said if the bill passes in Parliament, they would take the matter back to the courts of law.
“But assuming this bill is enacted into law after third reading, what gives me hope is that when the ConCourt delivered its judgment on Friday, regarding our petition…if I heard the court correctly, they said they have the jurisdiction to declare an act of Parliament unconstitutional. …so there is an opportunity before us to go back to court,” he said.
“As citizens of this Republic, we must always remember that the power to elect leaders that we want to serve us remains always with us; 2021 is coming, if this bill becomes law, exercise your right to vote and to vote for people that you believe will preserve the interest of this nation, the interest of future generations and if your desire is that Bill 10 should not be law and your representatives in Parliament vote for it, remember them when 2021 comes, it should be a campaign issue.”
And Chibamba said the organisations involved wanted to air their views on ‘the assault launched at the Republican constitution through bill number 10’.
“We are here to make an earnest appeal to our elected representatives, the members of parliament not to pass bill number 10. You are supposed to represent the interest of the people that put them in those offices and this bill represents everything wrong that the people don’t want,” he stated.
“We believe that this bill is inimical to the interest of Zambians and it does not represent their aspirations. The people of Zambia were widely consulted on what they want to see in their constitution most recently through the technical committee and earlier through the Mungomba Commission. The amendments made after those two processes form the bulk of the contents of the current 2016 amended constitution. Through those consultations, the people of Zambia clearly stated that they wanted a more transparent and accountable government that puts the interests of the Zambian people above the selfish interest of our leaders.”
Chibamba added that the 2016 amendments to the constitution gave most of what the people wanted.
“It was no perfect but the result was arguably the most progressive constitution that Zambia has ever had. Bill 10 seeks to reverse all the gains that we have made in our constitution this far,” he said.
“Bill 10 increases the powers of the President. In a democracy, our leaders are our servants, they exist to implement the will of the people. Bill 10 allows the President to dictate how we should govern ourselves, this is a problem because power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The people of Zambia have the power to decide how they want to be governed, that power is under threat right now through Bill 10.”
Chibamba said with Bill 10 as law, corruption could skyrocket.
“Already we are seeing unprecedented levels of corruption in Zambia at all levels, starting right at the top, Bill 10 reduces the powers of State institutions such as the Financial Intelligence Centre and the judiciary to keep those in power in check and to hold the President accountable for all their decisions and when there is real or perceived corruption and mismanagement of the country,” he said.
“Bill number 10 makes it easier to manipulate electoral processes and election results. The people of Zambia wanted a government elected by the majority of the people so they requested for 50 plus 1 threshold to be put in the constitution. Basically this (Bill 10) is about protecting the presidency. The presidency is supposed to enjoy legitimacy and that can only be enjoyed if at least half the voters want that particular president to sit in office hence the 50 per cent plus 1 that we proposed to put in the constitution as a people. It is a very progressive clause that is right now under threat.”
Chibamba added that the voting power would be taken away from the people through Bill 10.
“Bill 10 introduces the concept of coalition government, making it easier to be elected as President of Zambia even without being elected by the majority of Zambians. There is also a proposal to reintroduce deputy ministers and to remove the constitutional limit on the number of members of parliament. All these proposed changes make it easier for the party in power to obtain power and almost impossible to remove them from power regardless of how badly they may govern the country; is this what the Zambian people want?” he asked.
“Bill 10 weakens the role of the national assembly. In between elections, Parliament provides some oversight over the operations of the President and the ministries, over the executive. …Bill 10 removes the national assembly’s ability to ensure that Zambia does not contract more debt than we can afford. Already we have seen debt rise to new levels that are currently chocking service delivery and government is having challenges in fully meeting its financial obligations. If Bill 10 is passed into law, there will be no checks on how much debt the President and his ministers can contract, this will make us poorer than we already are.”
He said that even the Bank of Zambia governor had made a submission to the committee stating that Zambia does not need to remove such kind of an oversight in terms of government debt contraction.
He added that: “Bill 10 weakens the role of the judicially. Recently, the public has been losing confidence in the judiciary because it is perceived to mostly give judgments in favour of the government against the rights of the people. If Bill 10 passes, it will make it easier to appoint judges that are favourable to the government and remove those perceived to be independent. This will make it harder to get justice from our courts where the government abuses our rights.”
Chibamba appealed to legislators to stand up for the people and vote against the bill.
“In summary, if Bill 10 passes, Zambia will most likely become a one party dictatorship. Already people are afraid of what the government, police and political cadres will do to them when they try and stand up for their rights. If Bill 10 passes, there will be even more reason for people to be afraid,” he said.
“We wish to remind the MPs that they have been elected by us to protect our interest and to defend the constitutional provisions that we the people chose. We urge you to follow your conscious and ensure that our citizens and their democracy is protected,” the civil society organisations said.
“We understand that there have been efforts to entice MPs to vote for Bill 10. We want to directly speak to you who have either already been enticed or thinking about the carrot that may have been dangled in front of you; think of the future, posterity will judge you harshly if you are going to vote for the enactment of Bill 10. Think of the wellbeing of your children and their children and generations to come and indeed think for the good of yourself. Resist Bill 10, don’t kubeba, do the right thing. Zambia is the only country we have.”/SM