Catholic Bishops, TIZ urge MPs to withdraw Bill 10

THE Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops says Bill 10 has polarised Zambians and have called for its withdrawal from Parliament.

In a statement to the Catholic faithful and people of goodwill yesterday, ZCCB president George Lungu said the constitutional amendment process through Bill 10 lacked genuine consensus and had become a source of division in the country.

“Inspired by our deep insights from the word of God and the social teaching of the Church and our prophetic call to uphold the dignity of every person as well as the need for our political leaders to promote and defend the rights of all Zambians regardless of their political persuasion, creed, colour or belief and by our own desire and that of many Zambians to voice out and respectfully engage with duty bearers on the pertinent socio-economic and political issues; appreciate all the efforts that have been made by the government and all its collaborators to formulate the current constitution Bill no. 10 of 2019 which is on the floor of the House waiting to be presented for the Second Reading,” Bishop Lungu said.

He said the Catholic Church acknowledged the desire and need by Zambians to address lacunas that were in the 2016 amended constitution.

He said the Church was encouraged by the realization by many Zambians that Bill 10 in its current form does not reflect the constitutional desires of the majority Zambians and that “is why a lot of preference is being made to the parliamentary committee report on Bill 10 and the suggestions of changes to be made to Bill 10 by Cabinet who are the primary mover of the said Bill”.

“Aware and concerned about the dwindling levels of vigilance among Zambians in general as they continue watching and saying nothing on the increasing incidents of human rights abuse, political violence, high levels of corruption, poor observance of rule of law and now the manipulation of masses over Bill 10 exhibited by those who have taken it upon themselves to popularize it; having undertaken a comparative analysis of Bill 10, the Parliamentary Report on the same Bill and the current amended constitution of 2016, we note that while Bill 10 may contain some progressive clauses, it also contains some retrogressive and highly contentious clauses such as the provision for deputy ministers, proposed changes in the electoral system regarding mayors, council chairpersons, member of parliament and the President, and the proposed revision of the composition of Cabinet,” he said. “Firstly and in line with our prophetic mandate, we wish to express our solidarity with the many Zambians who are denied their right to exercise their freedoms of expression and assembly; including the youth whose cry has become louder in the recent days. Secondly, we firmly believe that any legitimate process of making, reviewing and amending the supreme law of the land ought to be premised on a process that is widely inclusive, transparent, accountable and anchored on consensus building rather than partisan interest. Unfortunately, what we have observed with regard to Bill 10 is that the process that was undertaken lacked genuine consensus and has become a source of division in the country. Instead of bringing Zambians together for a common cause, it has further polarized them.”

Bishop Lungu said the making of a people driven constitution that would stand the test of time calls for a spirit of dialogue with all stakeholders.

“This dialogue involved a courteous discussion with a view to reaching or at least moving closer to a consensus. This requires stakeholders to be open, to be ready to listen and to share positions that will see a better future. We therefore appeal to citizens of Zambia for a high level of patriotism and love of neighbour even when you disagree with their views. We appeal for an attitude of willingness to enter into fruitful and genuine dialogue,” he said. “In conclusion, we hereby make our earnest appeal to the conscience f all member of parliament across the political divide to resect the will of the majority Zambians and immediately withdraw the said Bill 10 from the floor of the House. At the same time we urge the people of Zambia not to lose hope. We genuinely believe the words of our Lord Jesus Christ that those who hunger and thirst for justice will in the end be satisfied! We further call on all well meaning and God-fearing Zambians to pray to the Almighty God, not only blesses this nation but also ‘…let justice flow like a river and integrity like an unfailing stream’.”

Meanwhile, Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) has urged Parliamentarians to rise above partisan interests and reject Bill 10 in order to protect not just their individual and collective legacy, but also the aspirations of the people they represent.

Chapter president Reuben Lifuka said TIZ believes that the number one duty of parliamentarians is to protect the Republican Constitution and abide by what is enshrined in it.

“We believe that the Constitution, being the living embodiment of the aspirations of the Zambian people, should not be fundamentally altered in ways that seemingly promote partisan interests or that do not assure consensus-building around all or any part of its content,” he said.

Lifuka said TIZ remained convinced that Bill No. 10 does not represent the views or wishes of Zambians not just because of the hostile reception it had received from majority Zambians, but also because of the apparent pass-it-at-all-costs approach that the Executive appeared to have adopted over it.

“Our biggest concern remains that the process of enacting Bill 10 appears to be driven by political interests over and above the interests of the people of Zambia as the most important stakeholder in the process, and we are convinced that passing the Bill in its current form will be a fatal blow to Zambia’s quest to have a Constitution that not only embodies the aspirations of the people, but also stands the test of time,” he said.

“We are concerned as TIZ that Bill No. 10 seeks to reverse all the gains that we have made and we therefore urge Parliamentarians to rise above partisan interests and reject this Bill in order to protect not just their individual and collective legacy, but also to protect the aspirations of the people they represent in the House.”

Lifuka said was is TI-Z’s belief that the primary loyalty for all Parliamentarians should be to the people of Zambia rather than their political parties or interests, and was cautiously hopeful that they will demonstrate this loyalty by rejecting Bill 10 when it comes up during this sitting of Parliament.

He said it was TIZ and other stakeholders’ belief that through “this ill-conceived Bill”, the Executive was taking steps to undermine Zambia’s democracy by weakening the other branches of government as well as independent oversight institutions such as Parliament.

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