…. As they plead with MPs to have the document withdrawn in its entirety
By Bennie Mundando
NINE Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have appealed to Members of Parliament (MPs) to reject the enactment of Bill 10 into law saying doing so will secure their legacy as having been among the legislators that stood up to defend the interests of Zambia.
The nine CSOs include Transparency International Zambia, Alliance for Community Action, Caritas Zambia, Action Aid Zambia, and Operation Young Vote. Others are Zambia Council for Social Development, Zitukule Consortium, Chapter One Foundation, and Centre for Trade Policy, and Development.
In a letter addressed to the MPs dated October 16, 2020 and signed by these organisations, they note that Bill 10 has been a matter of political discourse for over year now and that in that period, ordinary citizens, with whom they have continually interacted, have raised very serious concerns around it.
They have reiterated their position that Bill 10 must be withdrawn in its entirety as it is inimical to the country’s democratic aspirations as a nation because citizens have not asked for the changes the Bill makes and that there is no urgency for the fundamental constitutional amendments it makes, months before a general election.
They say that since the unconstitutional third term bid by second Republican President, Fredrick Chiluba, no national constitutional matter has garnered as much vociferous citizen voice as Bill 10 has.
They contend that the majority of citizens and citizen groups that have spoken and made presentations to the parliamentary select committee have rejected the provisions of Bill 10.
“We, in appealing to you, Honourable Members, are well aware that you represent the last line of defence for citizens against what appears to be a desire to amend the Constitution in a manner that will fundamentally alter the political and governance landscape of our country, to the national detriment.
“We would, in this regard, like to remind you that your foremost duty as our parliamentarians is to protect the Republican Constitution and abide by what is enshrined in it. We further wish to remind you that the people of Zambia were widely consulted on what they wanted to see in their Constitution.
“This happened most recently through the Technical Committee Drafting the Zambian Constitution and earlier through the Mung’omba Constitutional Review Commission,” reads the letter in part.
They say the amendments made after those two processes form the bulk of the contents of the current 2016 amended Constitution and that through those consultations, the people of Zambia clearly expressed their desire to have a more transparent and accountable Government that puts their interests above partisan and other interests.
“Our view is that the 2016 amendments to the Constitution largely gave the people most of what they wanted. Granted, it was not perfect, but the result was arguably the most progressive Constitution that Zambia has ever had.
“We are deeply concerned as CSOs that Bill 10 will reverse all the gains that we have made as a country on the Constitution. We are cognizant of the fact that there may be a lot of pressure from the proponents of Bill 10 to pass it.
“It is our hope and prayer that each one of you will individually reflect and be guided by the bigger picture: what sort of country you want to leave for your children and children’s children? With this reflection, we are confident that you will protect the larger good of our motherland.
“In rejecting the harmful Bill 10, you will have secured your legacy as having been one of the legislators that stood up to defend the interests of Zambia, and posterity will judge you kindly. Honourable Members, we write to you because we are confident that you will do the right thing for Zambia,” reads then letter.