PF has no authority to amend the constitution – Laura

By Staff Reporter

ALLIANCE for Community Action executive director Laura Miti has observed that the PF government represents half the country and that it does not have the authority to amend the current Republican Constitution.

And PF media director Sunday Chanda says the argument that the ruling party wants to alter the Constitution does not arise.

Speaking on Muvi TV’s The Assignment programme, Miti indicated that Zambians had a government that is, at this moment, “quite unpopular.”

“If you say it is popular, it is a government that represents half the country! So, it does not have the authority to pass this Constitution. This process favours the PF to do whatever they want with the Constitution!” Miti observed.

“The only way you’ll get a Constitution that is acceptable is that the process should not give too much power to whoever is in power because every ruling party in Zambia and across the world wants to stay in office. [If] we give the PF the authority to have the final say on this Constitution, I can guarantee you that we’ll be sitting here [talking about the same topic of Constitution-making].”

She argued that the process of trying to amend the Constitution, under the auspices of the National Dialogue Forum (NDF), was flawed.

“It’s as flawed as the NCC (National Constitution Conference) was. We all agree with the need to amend the Constitution; we agree that there is a problem with the public order Act. [But] what we are saying is that there is bad will,” she explained.

Miti added that the problem of the national dialogue Act was not so much with the content but that “the problem is that what minister Lubinda has done has brought major bad will to a process that is supposed to bring the country together.”

“You are forcing people to go into this so-called Forum! When you talk about the Forum, the bill has created a super structure that is almost higher than Parliament, higher than the courts because if you do not appear before it you can be sanctioned. You can refuse to sit on the Forum but you cannot refuse to appear before it,” Miti complained.

“The problem we sit with is that we’ve been trying to amend the Constitution for my whole adult life. From president [Levy] Mwanawasa, civil society has engaged with just about every President. I remember myself sitting in president Mwanawasa’s office talking about the Constitution. From president Mwanawasa to now, the reason why we do not have a Constitution that is acceptable to everybody the problem has always been the process – never the content.”

She also noted that ruling parties in Zambia always wanted to have an upper hand in the Constitution-making process and that “what we are doing now is exactly what was done before.”

But Chanda, on the same programme, countered that the national dialogue Act did not take away any citizen’s rights guaranteed by the Zambian Constitution.

“If it ever did, you have the right to seek judicial review. What is important to understand is that we are a country of laws – there is the supreme law of the land and there is also subsidiary law.  The content in the dialogue Act are issues that we all agreed to. The argument has been around the how,” Chanda said.

He explained that before any amendments to the current Constitution could be made, a two thirds majority of members of parliament was required.

“There is a threshold provided for under the law. In order for this to become law, there will be need for two thirds majority in Parliament,” noted Chanda.

“So, even when people talk about the PF trying to use arrogance of numbers, it doesn’t arise [because] PF does not have a two thirds majority in Parliament. That is the more reason why any Constitution-making process is [about] consensus.”