THE Constitution of Zambia is not and should not be treated as a political party document, says Vernon Mwaanga.
He said the Constitution was supposed to be a sacrosanct document which should not be tinkered with at will, merely to satisfy the selfish ego and appetites of individual politicians to stay or overstay in power.
He said sticking to constitutionalism and the rule of law was the only way for Zambia.
Mwaanga noted that the tripartite elections were a few months away.
He said the electoral process had begun in earnest with the issuance of National Registration Cards and the registering of voters.
Mwaanga said the issuing of NRCs had attracted attention because of the discriminatory manner in which it was being done.
He said there was a public perception that NRCs were being issued willy-nilly in areas where the ruling PF predominates, therefore disadvantaging areas perceived to be opposition strongholds.
“This became a partisan issue. The registration of voters has proved problematic because at many registration points, including where I vote, the centres opened one week later than the timeframe given by the Electoral Commission of Zambia. When they eventually opened, it became clear that they were short-staffed and queues became longer and longer, with potential voters standing in the line for two to three days,” the veteran politician said.
Mwaanga said the law provides for continuous registration of voters, very little effort, if any, has been made to encourage people to continuously register as voters.
He said every Zambian who has reached the age of 16 years, is by law and right entitled to have an NRC.
Mwaanga said the country has had a history of contested elections and this partly stems from the fact that the current crop of leaders, particularly those in government, don’t seem to understand and recognise the intrinsic importance and value of political dialogue, which has served the country well in the past.
“Let us face reality. We are all Zambians and have an equal stake in this country. The founding fathers of our country, led by our founding president Dr Kenneth Kaunda, left a solid foundation, based on ‘One Zambia, One Nation’, which has kept our country together for 56 years. This national motto has regrettably undergone major reconstruction surgery in the last few years,” he said. “Its value has been watered down. This is tantamount to betrayal of those who fought so hard for our independence and paid with their blood and their lives to see One Zambia, One Nation, become a reality.”
Mwaanga said in the recent past, there had been irresponsible tribal statements by ministers, which have gone unpunished.
“We have also had government ministers who were misled by President Edgar Lungu, to continue in office, after the dissolution of the National Assembly, refusing to comply with a judgment of the Constitutional Court, to repay all the salaries, allowances, advances and any other monies they may have earned, when they illegally stayed in power. This level of insubordination is unprecedented in the history of Zambia,” he said. “Do we have different sets of laws for ministers and ordinary citizens? President Lungu, should have compelled his ministers to repay the money, back to government. The President instead became part of the conspiracy of silence – at least publicly.”
And Mwaanga said the failure of Bill 10 to achieve the threshold of two thirds of the votes of all members of parliament was a sad reminder that this was a democracy and people must learn the discipline to reach out to each other as stakeholders, with a view to arriving at a national consensus.
“The Constitution of Zambia, is not and should not be treated as a political party document. It is supposed to be a sacrosanct document, which should not be tinkered with at will, merely to satisfy the selfish ego and appetites of individual politicians to stay or overstay in power,” he said. “Provocative language is being used by government leaders and some opposition leaders. It is the duty of government leaders to set high standards and lead by example by desisting from making wounding tribal and other offensive statements for the sake of our country and its future.”
Mwaanga said only then “will they have the moral compass to hold the opposition to similar standards”.
“If they fail to do so, we shall regrettably be building a country of ‘lows’ instead of ‘laws’. We must listen and respect each other, even when we disagree, because democracy accommodates differences of opinion,” he said.
Mwaanga said women and young people, must take the opportunity to register as voters in large numbers so that they achieve the Zambia they want to see going forward.
He also observed that women, the disabled and young people were grossly under-represented in the National Assembly and in local councils.
Mwaanga noted that this was despite Zambia being a signatory to the SADC and AU protocols, calling for 50 per cent gender parity in Parliament, other elective offices and in bodies such as Cabinet.
“Our numbers of women in parliament and local councils, have been reducing, instead of increasing. At present Rwanda leads the whole world in terms of gender representation in parliament, cabinet, local councils and boardrooms of companies. Our women deserve better,” said Mwaanga. “Young people should not listen to leaders who keep saying that ‘you are the future leaders’. They have been saying this for years. For the young people, I can only tell them that ‘your future is now’. All political parties should bear this in mind when adopting parliamentary and local council candidates in the elections scheduled for 12th August, 2021.”