By George Chellah and Speedwell Mupuchi
Post Newspaper: Saturday March 10, 2007
PATRIOTIC Front (PF) president Michael Sata has vowed that a new Republican constitution would be in place before 2011 whether President Levy Mwanawasa likes it or not. And Sata said President Mwanawasa should deal with local government and housing minister Sylvia Masebo’s thuggish conduct if he wants the PF councils countrywide to operate. And UPND president Hakainde Hichilema said Zambians were entitled to engage in politicking if the constitution they so desired was delayed.
Reacting to President Mwanawasa’s statement that he had been denied a chance to write a new constitution and that some people were preoccupied with demonstrations against the government, Sata said PF would continue to mount pressure on the government until Zambians got a constitution before 2011. “The fact is there will be a new constitution before 2011 whether Levy likes it or not,” Sata said. “Zambia needs a sane person who will listen to us and what we are saying. Levy can’t do that because he is medically impaired.”
Sata said President Mwanawasa was afraid of enacting a new constitution because he knew that it would be difficult for MMD to remain in power. “He just wants to continue stealing votes. He is scared that once he does that he won’t leave MMD in power. I am a victim of a defective constitution so we have to sensitise Zambians on this issue,” Sata said. “We are just demanding for what belongs to us and we are going to get what we want.”
Sata said PF did not shun the prayers at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross last Sunday as suggested by President Mwanawasa. “We were not invited so how can we attend? They only invited Levy, that’s why they found that the seats were empty and that’s not for Levy to complain. In the past we have attended thanksgiving prayers, prayers for women and youths because the organisers invited us by card,” he said.
On President Mwanawasa’s remarks that PF councils had failed to deliver, Sata accused President Mwanawasa of playing double standards. “PF has not refused to work. He (Levy) has employed a thug for a minister who has concentrated on interfering with our council operations. Let him tell his minister not to frustrate our councils. Let him deal with his minister’s thuggish behaviour or conduct, let him remove her and we will operate freely,” Sata said. He said due to the interferences from the state, the council on Monday resolved not to sit. “They unanimously resolved not to sit because the place was surrounded by riot police and yet it was supposed to be a council meeting. So they refused to sit, saying that ‘we can’t operate under intimidation’,” Sata said.
But a source from Lusaka City Council yesterday said the police were called in to keep law and order because PF had hired buses to ferry cadres to the council where PF councillors were supposed to move a motion to suspend mayor Susan Nakazwe in line with Sata’s instructions. “They called off the council meeting because they were told that they needed to issue a notice of motion some days in advance and also they are supposed to give reasons in the motion,” the source said. “This was not done so they postponed the meeting. This postponement had nothing to do with any intimidation from anywhere.”
And Sata said PF would mount pressure to push Rabobank of the Netherlands out of Zambia.
“Now that Magande has failed to explain, we will mount pressure to push Rabobank out of Zambia. They must keep their hands off the bank. I am only grateful to the Rabobank because they are honest,” Sata said. “Without PF pressure on government, the nation would not have known the truth. We are gaining confidence of investors that’s why they met us. They were accusing us of being unfriendly to investors but how are we attracting them now?”
And Hichilema said too much politicking was caused by the fact that the government had not provided a new constitution. He said Zambians were entitled to engage in politicking if the constitution they so desired was delayed. “We don’t need to be acrimonious about it. We need the new constitution by close of 2008. There is no need to quarrel over this document,” Hichilema said. He said anyone who wanted to quarrel over the Constitution would just infuriate Zambians.
“Let’s put up a constituent assembly to deliver the Constitution so we put away this matter which is eating into our resources,” Hichilema said.
Recalling how Parliament was moved prior to the 1991 elections to make amendments to the Constitution and former president Dr Kenneth Kaunda was forced to cut short his term, Hichilema said that no one should think they could stall the constitution process. Hichilema also said there was need for the electoral Act to be reviewed to provide for automatic verification of results where there were genuine complaints. “We don’t have to fear anybody or anyone to threaten Zambians over the issue. You can’t threaten the 11 million Zambians. We should be level-headed in handling this issue. The government should be level-headed and we should also be level-headed. However, this must not imply that we do not do the correct thing; to provide the new Constitution,” Hichilema said.
He said there was already enough tension in the country and there was no need to increase it further by denying Zambians a new constitution. “Poverty is enough tension, poor levels of income is enough tension so we do not need any more tension,” said Hichilema