Nawakwi calls for urgent constitutional and political reforms
By Staff Reporter
Opposition Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) president, Edith Nawakwi says the national dialogue process ought to deal with urgent issues of constitutional and political reforms.
And Nawakwi said under the current electoral Act, the Electoral Commission of Zambia chairperson and the commissioners did not have power to act on electoral malpractices.
“This constitutional reform was programmed that by June 2019, all the drafts should be before Parliament. Now, if we don’t get these drafts before Parliament, then we are done; we are going to go to 2021 under the current Constitution and I believe the current electoral process Act provides for extreme chaos!” Nawakwi said.
“The form G 12; isn’t that a source of problems? People will stand up and say ‘I didn’t see form G 12; where’s it?’ People have found value in that! Why doesn’t UPND stand up and say the core business that they are in is politics and therefore let us sit down and make sure that we have a new electoral process Act which will spell out clearly how, after you tally the votes, you are going to move them? My own view is that people like the chaos that ensues.”
The opposition leader pointed out further that while issues like cultural reforms, disability, gender inequality and others were important to be included in the national dialogue, there was pressing need to first deal with the issues that divided Zambians pre – and post – elections.
“We are not opposed to the Church carrying on with the national dialogue. But I want every Zambian to understand that unless we are satisfied with the current public order Act, with the current electoral process Act, with the current Constitution…. The primary focus of the political dialogue is on the four issues and those four issues, once addressed, have a tendency to reduce the pre – and post – election violence because everybody will clear of the route. Right now, our chairperson for elections doesn’t have power. Our referee has no authority!” Nawakwi explained.
She also asserted that there was an agenda beyond the political dialogue and that such agenda had been unveiled in a document written by the alliance of 12 political parties where: “somebody said they’ve already won the 2021 elections.”
“So, maybe they are now preparing petitions for filing in 2021,” Nawakwi mocked.
Asked if she was not exaggerating the aspect of the opposition alliance saying it would certainly win the 2021 general elections and was now waiting for either chaotic or peaceful transition of power, provided that every politician would be confident of winning an election, Nawakwi responded that: “But I don’t loop the Church in that.”
“What I’m saying is that there is a very clear attempt by UPND to try and loop the Church into their agenda. The Church is innocently trying to carry on a programme but there is a hidden agenda which unfortunately someone has brought to the fore,” Nawakwi noted.
On whether she agreed with the Church’s agenda of a broad and serious national dialogue where even chiefs would be involved, Nawakwi explained that that would be too broad to be accommodated in the legislative and political calendars.
“It’s too broad and I have expressed my views on that. When I met the Bishops, I clearly said there are four issues; you summarise them as governance and political reforms. They (the Church) can add the issues! I mean, it’s their prerogative to talk about religious dialogue, cultural dialogue. The Church has a broader mandate,” she indicated.
“But how does that fit in with the political calendar of this country? We are having elections in 2021, save other people have already won! How does it fit in the legislative calendar? The legislature calendar for this particular issue (of dialogue) must be concluded by June this year, otherwise we’ll not have any reforms.”
Meanwhile, Nawakwi complained that political and other concerned stakeholders could not spend eight months debating whether the national dialogue should be spearheaded by the three Church mother bodies or the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue (ZCID).
“My proposal, if people were to listen to me, is that there are eminent legal brains in this country who can chair the part that I’m interested in i.e. the constitutional and political reforms. The dialogue can continue but please, let us deal with the issues that are urgent and the issue that is urgent is cleaning up the Constitution,” Nawakwi said.
“After cleaning up the Constitution, there is the issue [of] legislative reforms for the subsidiary legislations such as the electoral process Act, the public order Act. At the pace at which we are going, I see that we’ll not do it until 2040 because it appears to me that there are different interest groups. A process like this now should be funded by the taxpayer….”
She further lamented that it was ill-fated that interparty dialogue had turned into interparty “circus.”