CSOs says constitution amendment bill undermines people’s confidence 

By Staff Reporter 

Consortium of Civil Society Organisations has  joined LAZ in condemning the proposed amendments contained in the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill 2019 which is currently before Parliament. 

In a joint statement, the civil society organisations stated that the proposal to reintroduce deputy ministers had been rejected by the people of Zambia in the last constitutional review process.

 The CSOs charged that this amendment would be costly to the Zambian people at a time when the country should be taking austerity measures given the high levels of debt in the country.

 “It comes at a time when many Zambians are struggling to make ends meet due to the high cost of living. These resources could be better used to meet basic services such as health, education, water and sanitation. We are aware that schools have not been receiving their funds and that funding to the health sector is equally erratic. And even if there were no cost attached to it, having a bloated Cabinet would mean that things would run less efficiently,” the CSOs said.

The CSOs lamented removal of constitutional limit on the number of constituencies.

“Firstly, the party in power, which normally has a majority in parliament, will be able to increase the number of members of parliament and constituencies at will meaning that they can ensure that they always have a majority in parliament and therefore make it easier for them to pass any Act of Parliament and even to reach the two thirds threshold to change any provision of the Constitution outside of the Bill of Rights. A ruling party with that much power is essentially tantamount to a one-party dictatorship. Secondly, the ability to increase the number of members of parliament will come at a cost to the Zambian people who have to pay the salaries of these MPs at a time when money is hard to come by. Thirdly, it will increase the likelihood of the party in power remaining in power indefinitely.”

The CSOs noted that the proposed introduction of coalition governments in the event that the party leading in a general election fails to meet the current 50% threshold undermines the will of the people as stated in the final draft constitution by the Technical committee.

“It also means that a political party can form government by partnering with another political party that was largely rejected by the electorate. This means that the power of the people of Zambia to elect a government of their choice will be undermined. Additionally, as stated by Mwitwa, coalition governments are only suited to a parliamentary system of government,” they CSOs said.

The csos pointed out that Zambia currently is operating under a presidential system of government where the electorate vote for the president directly unlike a parliamentary system where the ruling party selects who the head of state will be. 

“This is problematic not only because the people of Zambia have consistently opted for a presidential system of government but also because the framework of the Constitution, even with the proposed amendments, does not support a coalition system of government,” it stated.

“Mwitwa is also correct in saying that the fact that the government is proposing an unlimited number of judges that make up our High Court, Court of Appeal and Constitutional Courts means that the party in power can pack the courts with judges that are sympathetic towards them subsequently interfering and undermining the independence of the judiciary”.