With Parliament expected to reconvene on June 9th the controversial debate around Bill No. 10 has resurfaced.

Opponents, from the UPND and the NDC, to the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ), ActionAid and Linda Kasonde’s Chapter One, are objecting to the Bill on the basis that it strengthens the existing powers of the executive and President to the detriment of Zambia’s democracy.

Among the most contentious and concerning provisions in the Bill are the re-introduction of deputy ministers, the permitting of ministers to stay in office during elections and scope for interference in the appointment of judges. All of which opposition and civil society claim are designed not to benefit the citizenry, but to strengthen the PF’s grip on power ahead of elections next year.

The Bill also contains some worrisome provisions relating to Government’s economic and financial management, giving the President the power to contract debt without requiring parliamentary approval. This has served as another red flag ahead of elections.

“If Bill 10 becomes law, there is a great danger that our democracy will be weakened, our separation of powers will be weakened, and then, there will be Executive powers that will be enhanced, which will cause an imbalance in the way the governance system is supposed to be,” LAZ President Eddie Mwitwa has stated.

The divisive Bill No. 10 of 2019 has been championed by Government as a necessary measure to address lacunas in the existing Constitution, but has been virulently opposed by several opposition parties and civil society organisations.

Alliance for Community Action (ACA) Executive Director Laura Miti has also attacked the manner in which the Government has pursued the Bill.

Commenting on social media Miti wrote, “I have asked before & ask again – why does the EL (Edgar Lungu) administration so desperately want #Bill10 to pass?”

“They have bullied, persuaded, lied, begged. Nothing else has ever seen such attention, not even an economy falling apart. Is this for the Zambian? For you & me. #SayNoToBill10,” she concluded.

When the Bill came before Parliament last year further deliberation was eventually deferred. The official reason for the deferral given by Government was that there was insufficient time to debate the Bill in the last sitting and the need to prioritise the Budget Act, although it seemed likely that the Government was also scrambling to secure the necessary votes it needed to pass the controversial document. As an amendment to the existing Constitution the Bill requires a two-thirds majority to pass, equivalent to 111 of the 167 MPs. The PF has just 80 elected members, with eight nominated MPs.

The Constitutional Court has already thrown out one petition challenging the Bill from LAZ and Chapter One on the basis that the Court’s jurisdiction relates to Acts of Parliament, rather than proposed laws in the form of bills. As such, further more substantive legal challenges can be expected should Bill No. 10 come to pass.


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