PRESS STATEMENT Treachery of the Parliamentary Amendment of the Constitution Lusaka, 17 th December 2015
The Grand Coalition on the Campaign for a People Driven Constitution in Zambia has been vindicated in its warning that the Parliamentary Amendment of the constitution is part of a well calculated ploy to deny Zambians a people driven constitution.
The people of Zambia have clearly been duped by the Patriotic Front government and now it is trying to blindfold the citizenry to think that a new People Driven Constitution has been delivered. The Bill that was passed is not a new constitution but amendments to the constitution. What they passed in Parliament is not what the people of Zambia drafted. It belongs to the PF and not the Zambian people.
What happened in Parliament last week is part of the treachery that the Grand Coalition consistently warned Zambians to be wary about. Recollecting how the final draft constitution was birthed, it is extremely treacherous for any person to alter the contents of a document that was compiled by the people of Zambia. One wonders why the PF government did not just adopt the National Constitution Commission (NCC) draft of 2010 and included whatever new clauses they wanted, than wasting so much money only to end up adopting some of the exact clauses in the NCC draft Constitution and using the same route the NCC proposed. The implications of the exclusions or shooting down of some progressive clauses in the draft constitution are that:
1. It limits citizens’ enjoyment of fundamental rights: The Bill of Rights has not been included in the amendments that passed in Parliament. This makes it difficult for citizens to enjoy their fundamental rights and freely participate in the governance of the country.
2. The shooting down of the provision on Mixed Member Proportional representation undermines the participation of women, youth and persons with disability: The amended constitution has undermined the participation of women, youths and persons with disability in national affairs and they remain at the benevolence of the leaders which perpetuates dependence and political patronage. The submissions from district, provincial and provincial levels, which were clearly captured in the final draft, were clear that citizens wanted the constitution that guaranteed the effective representation of women, youths and persons with disabilities in line with the many international instruments Zambia has signed. It is clear that the MMD and PF do not want the marginalised groups to also participate in the governance of the country as demonstrated by their unanimous resolve to shoot down such a provision.
3. The removal of the clause on Cabinet outside Parliament has undermined the doctrine of separation of powers: The amendment has also undermined the doctrine of separation of powers. We are in a subtle way going back to a one party state. The people clearly stated that in order for different arms of government to keep checks and balances on each other, Cabinet would have to be appointed from outside Parliament. This is working in other countries. Grand Coalition on the Campaign for a People Driven Constitution in Zambia New Constitution, Better Lives for All
4. It has stifled access to information and freedom of the media: The people indicated that they want access to information and freedom of the media to be guaranteed in the new constitution. These provisions are not part of the PF amendments passed in Parliament. This means the PF want to continue with this current trend of beating journalists, storming radio stations and disrupting programmes. No wonder threats on media institutions have become the order of the day from the Minister responsible of protecting the media and also no wonder the Access to Information law has dragged on.
5. The amendments trashed the people’s submissions on voting on the budget: The final constitution says the budget must be passed by a two thirds majority, but the PF and MMD colluded to reject the people’s submissions, changing the clause to provide for a simple majority to pass the budget. This shows that they are so determined to continue with their lack of accountability in the management of national funds. It is sad that the PF could not learn from reasons that led to MMD being booted out-limited accountability that resulted in massive cases of corruption within government and officials.
6. The amendments left out the provisions on Provincial Assemblies, thus limiting decentralisation: Among the clauses that were shot down was the provision on provincial assemblies, whereby the constitution defined how citizens would effectively participate in local governance. PF government with support from the MMD want to continue to centralise power and their talk about decentralisation is but just a lip service. The way in which the PF have handled their amendment of the constitution shows they want to limit citizens’ participation in the democratic governance of this country. We have every reason to fear that the current human rights violations through the limitation of the enjoyment of people’s freedoms are just but a beginning of worse things to come especially ahead of the election. That is why the PF have dropped a number of progressive clauses so that they can continue to undermine the role of citizens in the governance of this country later on drags its feet to review the Public Order Act.
What has worsened our fears is the fact that the current process does not have a clear roadmap to give guidance and indications on what will happen next on the mutilated constitution. We have already seen that those in power just decide as and when they want to change or remove some provisions of the draft without consulting the authors of the draft: the people of Zambia. Without a roadmap and legal framework, they will get away with this without accounting to anyone. However, the time to account for their actions is fast approaching and as Grand Coalition, we are resolved to make it happen for them. What the Members of Parliament have done is like a messenger who is sent to deliver a letter, but on the way the messenger decides to open the letter and change some paragraphs. Once again like they failed with the economy, the PF have failed even at something that was within their control.
Issued by: Ms Sara Longwe
Vice Chairperson – Grand Coalition on the Campaign for a People-Driven Constitution