By Elias Munshya
When Justice Minister Given Lubinda announced efforts to amend the Constitution of Zambia, he did it with a great deal of arrogance and an inexcusable insult to the people of Zambia. My friend, the Attorney General, took no time in implementing this devious plan. At first, we were told that the effort was just clean up some sections of the constitution that needed a little refinement. However, to our shock and consternation, Mr. Lubinda hired a group of pseudo-intellectual quacks who went for the over-kill. It was no longer about refining the constitution, but rather a complete overhaul of Zambia’s constitutional framework and structure. The Constitution Amendment Bill (2019), which we appropriately christened as Bill 10 came with a fury. In the Bill, parliament was going to lose its oversight powers over the executive. Deputy Ministers were to be re-introduced. Judges would be appointed at will, and their constitutionalized numbers would be reduced to the simple parliamentary statute. The Bill introduced a coalition government in a system that practices a presidential system of elections. It was a total mess!
However, the Patriotic Front government kept on with their arrogance. They insisted that they will pass the Bill. They insisted that the Bill was in the interest of Zambians. And yet, they did not consult the very people they are claiming. They came up with the NDF, a forum that met in Lusaka with many Lusaka based NGOs. The NDF had 10 days to transact serious business of endorsing this constitution from hell. Not even a simple court brief can be written in 10 days. Not even an essay for a college can be done in 10 days, and yet here they were, Lubinda, Kalaluka, and Lungu insisting that the NDF would write the country’s constitution in 10 days. It was a sham!
Serious players in our country’s affairs were shunned. The UPND opposition party was excluded, or it excluded itself. The Church mother bodies were ignored. Church mother bodies – that is the serous 3 mother bodies. Of course, President Lungu found several other church mother bodies, mainly belonging to my Pentecostal faith (I am an ordained Pentecostal preacher), which were used very skillfully to claim to represent the church. Some of these Pentecostal church “mother” bodies are not serious about anything constitutionally tangible. They lack deep insight into the constitution or what it means to be a republic. It is only unserious political characters that take these charades seriously. But it is this ilk that President Lungu found tremendous comfort and adopted them as his Bill 10 advisors.
Ms. Linda Kasonde, a fiery lady we differed with when she opposed Mr. Kalaluka’s appointment as Attorney General (we supported Mr. Kalaluka’s appointment, and boy, weren’t we wrong!), filed a lawsuit challenging Bill 10. The Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) also filed a court challenge. These two court cases were a great effort at bringing visibility to the issue. In record time, the Constitutional Court of Zambia made its ruling: they claimed to have no jurisdiction over a bill, any bill. Even if a bill proposed to change the structure of their court and the constitutional structure of Zambia, the Constitutional Court judges said no, they could not intervene. We understand that there is a dissenting opinion from Madam Justice Munalula, the only academically, educationally, and constitutionally sophisticated judge to understand the role of a Constitution Court in a democracy. The other judges of the Constitutional Court would much instead make noise about former ministers reimbursing Mr. Kalaluka with K2 for illegal stay in power than actually stand up for the constitution of Zambia.
The only last line of defence regarding Bill 10 is now parliament. Parliament needs 111 votes to advance Bill 10 to Second Reading. The PF-Nakachinda alliance does not have the numbers. And so they are panicking as usual. And when the PF-Nakachinda alliance panics, it will try to retrieve the billions of kwacha it has stolen from contracts and donors (the issue Mr. Foote has pointed out) and use that money to try and corrupt the opposition MPs. But it appears like the opposition MPs are not for sale. And with that Bill 10 is dead. The only next question to ask Mr. Lubinda is: “where is isambo lya mfwa”? We, the people of Milenge, and the rest of Zambians are demanding that at least Mr. Zayello presides over this isambo. He must have a story or two to tell.
The author is a member of the Law Society of Alberta and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.