PRESIDENT HICHILEMA PUSHING CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS THAT MAY REQUIRE CLOSE SCRUTINY BY STAKEHOLDERS
By Amb. Emmanuel Mwamba
● amend 50%+1 to revert to First Past the Post electoral system.
● increase presidential terms from five to seven-year term.
● Removal of Running Mate clause and revert to appointed Vice-President.
Minister of Justice, Hon. Mulambe Haimbe announced in September 2023 that Government had embarked on the process to amend the Republican Constitution.
He stated that the process will be phased.
He stated that under;
1. the first phase- Government would attend to what he termed as “non-contentious” issues,
2. the second phase- would involve the holding of a referendum on the Bill of Rights.
3.the third phase would involve the Government undertaking a holistic review of the Constitution.
The rationale behind this approach has not been explained or justified.
On 14th September,2023 the National Assembly wrote to the Patriotic Front Members of Parliament and others inviting them to make their submissions on the proposed amendments to the Constitution.
“I am directed to bring to your attention
a resolution of the Standing Orders Committee for the political leadership in
the House to submit to the Office of the Clerk a consolidated list of non-contentious proposed amendments to the Constitution, for further processing”, read the letter from the Ckerk of the National Assembly.
This is extremely strange especially that the National Assembly is at the tale-end of the process and whose duty comes in to finally enact the Constitution after the people have given their views.
As a ruling party, the UPND is keen to make submissions that promote their interests and that of President Hakainde Hichilema.
So far we have established that the Party is pushing the following clauses;
1. Extension of Presidential term from five to seven-year term like it is in Burundi, Rwanda, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. They argue that this gives the President and his political party enough time to lay foundation and implement their economic and development plans. They argue that a five-year term is inadequate.
2. The UPND is also pushing for the removal of the position of the Vice President as a running mate to revert to the one who is appointed.
The arguement is that this gives the President flexibility to fashion a working team and avoid a “renegade vice president” as has recently happened in Kenya( Uhuru and Ruto) Malawi (Joyce Banda and President Bingu wa Mutharika and the recent political fallout between President Peter Mutharika and his Vice President, Saulos Chilima ), and South Africa (Jacob Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa).
3. The removal of 50%+1 to revert to First Past the Post claiming that the re-run would be expensive. The real motive for this clause is Hichilema’s lost popularity and continued diminishing influence with regional voters that are traditionally outside the Party’s support base.
4. Expand on multicultural status to facilitate the decriminalization of homosexuality and subtly enable gay rights in the Republic. The Party is targeting finding appropriate words to include in Article 4 (3) which describes the status of the country as the Republic which is a unitary, indivisible, multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-party democratic State.
THE PATRIOTIC FRONT
The Opposition Patriotic Front has rejected the proposed amendments as ill-intentioned and explained that the process has not met the minimum threshold of stakeholder engagement and consultations required.
Further the Party says there is currently no existing legal roadmap to guide the process.
The Party has called on stakeholders to reject this process like they did with Bill 10 as the stakeholders argued that the 2016 Constitution required to be tested and run its course.
The PF has also stated the UPND must beat their threshold which involved;
1. Countrywide consultations by the Ministry of Justice.
2. Holding the National Democratic Stateholders Summit.
3. Holding the Siavonga Summit for all Political Parties.
4. Signing of the Siavonga Accord that was drafted by Opposition leaders Dr. Cholwe Beyani and Hon. Mulambo Haimbe at the time.
5. Enactment of a legal process that provided for the Road Map for the Constitution-making process.
6. Enacting the National Dialogue Bill which provided for the National Dialogue Forum (NDF).
7. The NDF attracted 450 delegates drawn from diverse background.
8. Before enactment of the draft Constitution, the NDF Bill 10 was crafted and adopted live on Television. Further both Cabinet and Government were not allowed to make any changes to the draft headed for the National Assembly for enactment.
The anti-corruption watchdog is playing a strange role in this process. TI-Z has been funded to engage stakeholders in promoting reforms of certain pieces of legislation and craft the draft Constitution.
So far Transparency International has been facilitating legal reform meetings for members of the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue(ZCID).
This is clearly outside TI-Z’s mandate or scope of operation or competency.
Recently both the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops ( ZCCB) and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) have called on Government to come clean and establish a clear, transparent, purposeful and roadmap for the proposed constitutional amendments.
LAW ASSOCIATION OF ZAMBIA
In the past, the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) were vicious in fighting Bill 10 and even proceeded to sue the President and Speaker of the National Assembly to halt Bill 10.
LAZ stated that lack of adequate consultations and stakeholder engagements rendered the process illegitimate and was a danger to national security and stability. Yet Bill 10 passed through a rigorous consultation pricess.
Further Bill 10 was only brought to Parliament after the LAZ court process was exhausted.
Despite all this the Bill failed.
On this latest cause, LAZ has not rendered an opinion yet or course of action.
The current process being pushed by Justice Minister, Mulambe Haimbe does not meet minimum standards of stakeholder engagements. The process has no legal roadmap and is not driven by the people or its representatives.
It’s a sham intended to sneak in harmful amendments such as lengthy presidential terms and may help entrench a presidential dictatorship.
Stakeholders are encouraged to take keen interest in the current constitutional-making process to help safeguard the Republic.
The author is a Member of Central Commitee of the Patriotic Front and Chairperson ofInformation and Publicity.