Zambia: Opposition MPs Down Bill N0 10, Put President Lungu’s Third Mandate Ambitions on Life Support

A controversial Zambian Constitution Amendment instrument known as Bill N0. 10 that had been lingering around since 2019 has collapsed in Parliament. The piece of legislation was defeated in the session of Thursday, October 29, after protracted deliberations in the House.

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Patrick Matibini called for a vote for the bill to pass a second reading after a strong-willed debate mostly from the proponents of the bill in the House.

During the vote, 105 lawmakers voted for the bill, short of six votes to make it 111 that would have represented two-thirds of the lawmaker’s votes for the bill to pass.

“The results of the polls are as follows, ‘I’ was 105…, the question is negative, therefore the bill falls away…” Dr. Matibini declared.

Currently, there are 90 Patriotic Front (PF) MPs, 62 Opposition MPs, and 13 Independent Lawmakers in the Zambian Parliament. This means the PF needed support from all the Independent Lawmakers and at least 11 Opposition Lawmakers, hence making 111 yes votes to secure passage.

Addressing Parliament earlier, the Minister of Justice, Given Lubinda said he was proud to have been a Sheppard of the process adding that the process was no longer about numbers but about principles.

“…history is being recorded today; posterity will judge us. We shall be judged by how we treat this, the Zambian people have been treated to one side of the debate… these that are opposed to the bill are not here to represent the people,…the debate is not about numbers but about principle, it's about working for the people, we shall not stop here but will continue, the people of Zambia should be reckoned that the women and men on the right, from the Patriotic front are here to serve the people…” Mr. Lubinda said.

Meanwhile, there has been jubilation in some sections of the political and civil society spheres of the country over the crash of Bill N0. 10.  Some stakeholders have described the development as victorious, stating that the Bill was toxic, acrimonious, and divisive, and a liability to the economy.

Constitutional law Advocate, John Sangwa told Timescape Magazine that the vote means that Zambia has a working democratic and proper multi-party system and it has been tested.

“I feel victorious, I feel very proud to be Zambian today and to see that I live in a country where there is a functioning multiparty system and I commend UPND and other opposition Members of Parliament for holding steady fast and sticking to their position. There is time to compromise and time to stand in defence of the country, and they have stood in defence of the country and should be applauded,” Barrister Sangwa said.

He noted that most of the clauses proposed for amendment in Bill N0. 10 were just sugarcoating the truth of the matter, which was mainly to increase President Edgar Lungu’s chances of standing for re-election in the 2021 elections.

…now that it has fallen off, my position still stands, President Lungu is not eligible to stand… if he insists on standing, we will go to court. The constitutional court never ruled that he was eligible to stand. He has held the office of President twice, and that’s all…” the man of law emphasized.

He noted that the law simply says if one has been sworn into the office of presidency twice, they cannot contest again.

…do you realize the absurdity of insisting on a ten-year period, I can be elected, save for 4 years, resign, come back and seek re-election, save another 4 years and 6 months and resign and come back to seek office again, that’s how absurd the all argument is, so if you have been re-elected twice that’s it…” he concluded.

Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretary-General, Fr. Cleophas Lungu says the Church, civil society and several stakeholders were clear that the bill did not emerge out of a broad day kind of wider consultation and did not represent the tenets of constitution-making to represent the will of the people.  

He said the rejection of the bill is a vindication of the arguments that the Church and civil society put before the government of the day that the bill was controversial and was dividing the nation and that it had to be withdrawn. He has told Timescape Magazine that unfortunately, the powers authorities do not listen, and what happened in Parliament was the result of not listening to the will of the people.

It is a victory for the voice of reason, it is a victory for democracy, and it is a victory for tolerance to divergent views and it is a victory to the voice of  civil society, inclusive of the Church,… we advised, ‘withdraw the bill, do not waste time and resources over a divisive piece of the bill such as bill N0. 10 of 2019’ and we believe that we have been vindicated,” the Prelate noted.

He made clear that the insistence by those who fronted for the passage of Bill N0. 10 based on the proposed delimitation exercise aimed at increasing the number of polling stations and constituencies and the likes, were wrong because delimitation could be dealt with separately from the piece of legislation.

“… So, we beg to differ with that line of thought, what the proponents of Bill N0. 10 were trying to do was to put a few good elements in the bill so that it can attract the needed support on the floor of the House, but what is poisonous is poisonous no matter how much sugar you add to it. So, there is room for people to go directly to Parliament, the number of constituencies has been changed before and it did not need amending the Constitution in its entirety,” the Man of God outlined.

The views expressed by Fr. Lungu were in consonance with the way the Green Party looked the development. The Party’s President, Mr. Peter Sinkamba said it is good that Bill N0. 10 has finally been put to rest.

It was toxic chalice because it poisoned the minds of some party cadres whereby some resorted to violence and shedding blood, it was acrimonious as evidenced by its divisiveness. It divided the Church; it divided traditional leadership; it fuelled tribalism; and the regionalism that it brought was complete anathema to most people that promote values of national unity, peace and love,” Mr. Sinkamba opined.

He insisted in a statement availed to Timescape Magazine that Bill N0. 10 was a liability to the economy because the government went out of the way to spend money without restraint to make the bill pass.  He regretted that precious time and resources were wasted on the bill instead of attending to other issues that could help cushion the economic impact of Covid-19 and rising external debt.

“So, seriously speaking, let it rest in peace so that the Nation embarks on a healing process,” Mr. Sinkamba concluded.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebTHKHyW658 (President of the National Restoration Party- NAREP, Stephen Nyiranda expresses joy and looks into the future)

 

According to the National Assembly Website, Constitution Amendment Bill N0. 10 of 2019 was presented to the third session of the Twelfth National Assembly with the objective of amending  the Constitution of Zambia by among others, revising the preamble in order to reaffirm the Christian character of Zambia; revising the principles and values of the Constitution; revising the electoral system for elections to the National Assembly; revising the period for dissolution of the National Assembly.

It was also meant to revise the period of hearing and determination of a presidential election petition; revise the manner of election of mayors and council chairpersons; establish the office of deputy minister; revise the composition of the cabinet and revise the provisions relating to the establishment of commissions.

Other proposals included the revision of the provisions relating to the payment of pension benefits and retention on the payroll; provide for the membership of Members of Parliament in councils; establish the Drug Enforcement Commission as the Anti-Drugs, Economic and Financial Crimes Agency and redefine its function as a national security service; revise the functions of the Public Protector; revise the functions of the Bank of Zambia; revise the functions of the Auditor-General and the much more.