The Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) has called the PF led government to completely withdraw the Constitution Amendment Bill 2019 as the Bill was not progressive.
In a statement released on Saturday 20th July 2019 and signed by CCZ General Secretary Rev Canon Fr Emmanuel Chikoya, it has observed that the Bill has too many unfair, ambiguous and undefined pieces thereby not serving the interests of the majority Zambians.
Fr Chikoya has further called on all members of parliament not to support the Bill but instead stand with the majority of Zambians.
On the Electoral Process Amendment Bill 2019 and Public Order Act Bill, CCZ has noted that both Bills are products of the recently held National Dialogue Forum (NDF) which many considered to be an illegitimate process because the manner in which it was managed.
It has also condemned the proposed reduction of the campaign period for elections from the current three months to two months as this will not improve the current political environment.
On the Public Order Act, it states that there was an impression that the police have power to either permit or allow an assembly from taking place.
‘In as much as the law requires that notification be given to the police by those seeking to hold a public gathering, the police service have been seen to take the requirement for notification and response thereto as power for them to either permit or deny the going ahead of a public gathering,’ states part of the statement.
CCZ has further made the following recommendations on the Public Order Bill:
a) ‘The notion of ‘notification’ under the Act needs to be properly spelt out so that both the Zambia Police Service and negatively affected stakeholders, most of whom include opposition political parties during election campaign periods, are properly guided on the proper application of the Act.
b) There is need to provide a timeframe within which the Zambia Police Service can respond to a notification of the holding of a public gathering, that is, seeing that the law provides a five-day window for the holding of such a gathering, then it should follow that the law should provide that the Zambia Police Service should provide feedback to those notifying it within two days of receipt of such notification.
c) The Zambia Police Service should work within a legal prescribed timeline within which to provide an alternative date to those seeking to hold such a public gathering. Such time line should be within 10 working days or any other later date proposed by the party notifying the Police.
d) Such feedback should extend to the availability or non-availability of the Police to police the said event. Further, in providing such feedback, Police should avoid being malicious, arbitrary or worse still act according to instructions from the party in power. The Police must be professional. In a case were the applicant for whatever reason is denied “permission” to hold a meeting, a demonstration or a procession, the police must be bound by law to give the applicant an alternative day and time not exceeding 14 working days in which the applicant must be allowed to hold the said meeting, demonstration or procession.
e) There is need for the Act to give clear definition of what is termed or considered to be ‘normal’ or ‘customary’ processions contained in Section 4 (10). The relevance of having a clear guidance of the aforementioned terms is to provide guidance to the implementers and enforcers of the Act-the Police who may fall into temptation of arresting people on their personal fancies.
f) The waiver given to government ministers not to notify the police when having meetings is a form of discrimination based on political affiliation or opinion. This waiver by the law gives them an advantage to circumvent the need to obtain ‘Police permission’ even where the minister is doing partisan and political functions. Therefore, a clear distinction must be sort between government functions or where a minister is discharging his employment duties and partisan/political functions.
g) Religious gatherings should not be regulated under the Act. This should extend to other non-Christian religious activities; this clause should be removed as it is potentially addressed by the establishment of a Ministry for Religious Affairs and National Guidance as well as taken care of under the exemptions the Minister is permitted to give to certain organisations under the Act.’
CCZ has stressed that unless the points it has highlighted above are considered, the enactment of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill 2019 into law will not be serving the interests of majority Zambians adding that it has the obligation to ensure that a Country’s Constitution is clear and easy to understand.
‘A Country’s Constitution must be a public document that must be understood by the ordinary person on the Zambian street. We, therefore, suggest that the best course of action is to withdraw it immediately and let Zambia continue with the current 2016 Amendment of the Constitution. When this government or any other gets serious about making legitimate changes to the Zambian constitution, they must follow proper procedure, open up a proper national dialogue process like one which was spearheaded by the Church, consult with the people of Zambia and enact a Constitution that is in keeping with constitutionalism, common sense and the rule of law,’ it states.
And on the forth coming Katuba Parliamentary By-election, it has called on all political parties participating to ensure a peaceful campaign urging them to battle with ideas than using intimidation and violence.