UPND To Block Constitutional Amendment Bill
The UPND has confirmed its intention to block the proposed Constitution Amendment Bill. Reacting to news from Minister of Justice Given Lubinda that the government intends to put the bill before parliament when it resumes sitting in June, leader of the opposition in parliament Jack Mwiimbu objected to its tabling before the dialogue process is concluded.
Mwiimbu’s full statement reads as follows:
"Members of the press, you might be aware that on the 27th of March 2018, the minister of Justice issued a statement on the floor of the house giving a roadmap pertaining to the enactment of the constitutional amendment bill 2018 and in that Ministerial statement he indicated what processes the Ministry is going to undertake.
He mentioned that he was going to consult Members of Parliament, Secretary Generals and Presidents of the various political parties before bringing the document to the floor of the house.
It is as a result of this particular statement that I want to make a reaction on behalf of the UPND.
Members of the Press you are aware that there is supposed to be a dialogue process that is supposed to take place in the country pertaining to various issues that have taken place from the time of elections 2016 to date and you are aware that the Commonwealth initiated the dialogue process which was purportedly accepted by the Government Republic of Zambia and this process should have commenced.
Unfortunately,this process appears to have stalled due to the decisions by the Patriotic Front not to accept the Commonwealth to lead this process.
We as UPND have always been for the dialogue as we believe that this is the civilized way of resolving issues that affect the nation.
We have been requesting our colleagues to come on board and dialogue with us on national issues and I would like to confirm that my President Hakainde Hichilema and the UPND have been willing and ready to have a genuine dialogue with all stakeholders in this country.
What has drawn us back is the issue of the proposed Constitutional amendment bill 2018 which the Government intends to lay on the floor of the house and be passed in the month of June.
Members of the Press and the Public, you may be aware that the UPND has raised a number of issues that require to be resolved through a dialogue process and one of the pertinent issues raised that has contributed to the political tension and the problems we are having in the country is the constitution itself.
We strongly believe that it’s only after dialogue and after the issues that require to be placed in the constitution are resolved and agreed, we believe that is the only time a new constitutional amendment bill should be tabled.
A new Constitution amendment bill should arise out of the Consensus that will arise out of the dialogue.
But unfortunately our colleagues have decided to place the constitutional amendment bill before the dialogue commences.
It just shows that there is no political will to have the dialogue.
The pertinent issues, members of the press, members of the public hinge on the constitution of the Republic of Zambia.
You are aware that members of the public and other stakeholders have been raising issues pertaining to the management of the electoral process in this country.
The electoral process today is flawed arising from flawed constitutional provisions .
The electoral provision that relate to the management of elections in this country need to be addressed through a dialogue process.
How now can we sit to table the constitutional amendment bill before issues are agreed upon?
We believe and genuinely so that this can only be done after the dialogue.
You are aware that we have implored major stakeholders in this country to be involved in the process.
We have implored the churches and other major stakeholders to be involved so that when we come up with issues, they will be agreed issues that will be placed in the constitution and that when it is placed before the house, there will be no acrimony because the issues would have been agreed. But as it is, no issues have been agreed.
We take note where the Minister of Justice is saying that on the 12th of June, 2018 he will have a consultative meeting with members of parliament.
12th June is a Tuesday and Parliament will be sitting entailing that the consultative meeting with MPs will take four hours to discuss a very important national issue.
For me this is a mere joke, it’s a way of hoodwinking the public that they are serious with discussing issues of national interest.
It just shows that they are not interested to have a genuine dialogue.
If they are interested in genuine dialogue, let them defer the presentation of the bill in parliament until after the dialogue process is concluded.
I would like to state very categorically that UPND is not going to support any constitutional amendment that will be brought before the floor of the house before the dialogue is concluded and before the issues are resolved and agreed.
That is the position of the UPND.If they think they have the numbers, they can go ahead.
But we think we also have the numbers to ensure that this process of constitutional amendment process does not go ahead.
They need two-thirds to pass the constitutional amendment and we will ensure this does not go ahead in the interest of stakeholders until issues are discussed and agreed.
Once they are agreed and resolved, we as UPND have no problem in supporting any constitutional amendments that will arise out of the dialogue.
It is my considered view that you cannot have a genuine dialogue over a very important national document such as the constitution in four hours or less than 4 hours.
It’s not only one article they intend to amend but various articles that need to be amended.
It’s like they are overhauling the entire constitution.
They are overhauling the entire amended constitution of 2016.
How do you discuss the whole process in 4 hours.
It’s not possible and we are not the only stakeholders anyway.
The most prudent way of resolving this issue is not to publish or gazette the proposed bill.
Take the bill to the members of the public for validation, discussion and dialogue.
And once it’s agreed, it can be taken to parliament.
But before that we will not support it.
You do recall that we went through the same process in 2016.
We advised our colleagues not to go ahead with the constitution.
We had to vote but they proceeded and they were telling us that the constitution will stand the test of time.
Has it stood the test of time, the answer is no.
Within one and half years of the enactment of that constitution, they are now coming out with amendments.
It just shows that the current constitution is flawed because they don’t want to consult the stakeholders.
There are many stakeholders in this case including you the press.
You are the users of that particular constitution and I tend to think that any genuine government is supposed to consult you as the fourth estate.
You are supposed to have an input in this process but you are not being consulted.
If they go ahead and manage to pass it, we will continue having the same problems which we are having now. For me the so called consultative process is not genuine, it’s not prudent.
How can you have a consultative process over the constitution within 4 hours? It’s impossible?
You are aware that this process does not only involve the UPND but other political parties, the three church mother bodies, chiefsand other stakeholders and once the issue of the constitution is presented before them, they can raise issues.
Even currently you are hearing of issues of land where the chiefs are raising issues pertaining to the management of land.
Those are issues which we need to ensure that we scrutinize and include them in the constitution. We will not want to take a process which we know is flawed.
You are aware that in 2016, we passed a constitutional amendment act and in that act the constitution provides for the parliamentary service commission which is the institution that is supposed to manage parliament.
And arising from that constitutional amendment, parliament of the Republic of Zambia passed the parliamentary service commission act in 2016 but to date the executive has refused to actualize it because they know that by not allowing that they will be controlling parliament.
Currently because they have not actualized that act, members of staff are being appointed by the executive.
The Clerk of the National Assembly is not appointed by the National Assembly as required by the constitution. The current Clerk of the National Assembly was appointed by President Lungu contrary to what the act provides.
That is why we are saying parliament is now being controlled by the executive.
They don’t want the act to see the light of the day because they want to continue controlling parliament.
It’s not just parliament. There is also another constitutional provision where aid contraction is supposed to be reported to parliament.
It’s constitutional provisional now.
But they are not doing it because they want to be hiding the debt they are contracting.
They don’t want parliament to have an oversight role.
There is the Gender Equity Commission which I know that you ladies are supposed to have an interest.
The constitution was passed in 2016 but to date no law has been passed to actualize that.
It’s because they don’t equity among the genders because they have their own interests.
There are so many provisions in the current constitution which they have deliberately refused to actualize.
If you are failing to implement the current constitution, why would you want to come up with another constitution, it just shows that there is no political will to ensure that the provisions of the constitution are enhanced and implemented.
We will not be part of that process as UPND, that am speaking as leader of the opposition in parliament. We are not going to support it. Let them show the political will in ensuring that the current provisions of the constitution are actualized for the benefit of the people of Zambia.
There is also a provision in the constitution which states that when making appointments, you have to take into account the regional representation of the country as well as gender representation.
If you are appointing two people for a particular position and you are a member of government, you have to ensure that one of them is either a woman or man.
That is what the constitution says.
But do they do that, the answer is NO. They are deliberately breaking the constitution because they know that there are weak institutions in this country that can take stock of the wrongs they are doing.
But we are not going to be abetting that as the opposition as UPND.
We cannot do that. We have to stand up and fight for this country and stand up for the constitution."