Another lost opportunity

TO SOME, the collapse of Bill 10 (2019) on Thursday was prudent and it had to be buried.

Their contention is that the contents were not good for citizens.
This may now be water under the bridge but it is a matter that has left an indelible mark on the making of Zambia’s laws. It is a matter that will, therefore, be a constant talking point or reference point.
This is particularly so because it this is the second time in four years that a progressive law has been shot down.
In 2016, the Bill of Rights suffered a similar fate, although it was not in Parliament but through the referendum as it was decided along with the general elections.
It is a pity that Constitutional development has become highly partisan with evidently progressive intentions being opposed for nothing more than political expediency.
How else would one explain the campaign against a Bill of Rights, which is the cornerstone of all liberties?
The same fate has befallen Bill 10. Some segments of society, some cloaked as non-partisan and speaking for the people, opposed the Bill right from the start.
Their true colours came out when they continued opposing the Bill despite numerous revisions to accommodate their supposed concerns.
From arguing about the contents, they eventually narrowed their narrative to the process allegedly being noninclusive.
Really? Seriously?
Who wasn’t given an opportunity to be part of this process?
It is a pity that Bill 10, which had progressive clauses designed to improve the socio-economic status of the country, failed to garner the needed votes in Parliament on Friday.
Therefore, the status quo continues, implying that safe seats designed for the youth, women and disabled will not materialise.
For now, Zambia is back to square one: stuck with a Constitution everyone says should be revised but not everyone is
committed to doing so.
Nearly all facets of the Zambian community feel betrayed by the collapse of Bill 10, including traditional leaders, most of whom are entangled in succession disputes and sometimes boundaries.
It also means that the contentious Public Order Act, which hinges on public gatherings, will remain as it is, so will the number of constituencies, some of which are unarguably too large to manage for one Member of Parliament.
It is no longer surprising that some entities are seemingly resolved to oppose any progressive suggestion initiated by Government.
This is within their constitutional right, but if they are really talking for or representing the people, they should offer alternatives.
What is of concern, too, and with due respect, is that many citizens follow their leaders blindly. One just has to read through some social media platforms to realise just how misled some followers are.
Similarly, it is within the rights of MPs to stay away from the House during debates and to even abstain. Their core mandate, however, is to represent the people that voted for them.
To shun a parliamentary vote even for the proposals that were meant to level the political playing field is not what they were put in parliament for.
And while there may be reason for dancing by those that opposed Bill 10, the numbers still reflect a strong support for the sponsors of the Bill. The 105 votes fell short of the two-thirds threshold, but it was certainly way, way above the 50 percent plus one vote that is required for the more crucial mandate – that of being the governors of the country.