KELVIN CHONGO, Lusaka
PARLIAMENT has passed the running-mate, 50 percent plus one presidential winning threshold and dual citizenship among other clauses in the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill.
The bill, which passed third reading in the early hours of yesterday after a marathon 17-hour debate, is now awaiting Presidential assent to become law.
Parliament has also passed the Constitution of Zambia Bill number 16 of 2015.
The Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill, number 17 of 2015, followed protracted debate by members of Parliament (MPs), who sat from 14:30 hours on Thursday and rose at about 09:40 hours yesterday.
The amendment bill was passed on 111 votes for, 37 against and with no MP abstaining, sending the PF and MMD members into joyous celebrations with Vice-President Inonge Wina shaking hands with opposition members.
The debate was led by Minister of Justice Ngosa Simbyakula, who assured that the will of Zambians was being fulfilled and that the clauses withdrawn were to be presented after further consultation.
Some UPND MPs, who had put a spirited fight to block the bill were left downcast.
Shiwangâ€™andu MP Stephen Kampyongo said the passing of the constitution bills is a momentous occasion for the people of Zambia and the PF.
Mr Kampyongo said the process was a challenge but the ruling party remained resolved in ensuring that it took a step forward.
â€œThis is to ensure that Government get a final product with clauses which people have been crying for such as the presidential running-mate, dual citizenship and the 50+1,â€ he said.
Mr Kampyongo said that Zambia has in the past lost two sitting heads of State (resulting in unbudgeted presidential elections) and therefore the running mate clause was important.
He also commended MMD MPs for their support of the constitution-making process.
â€œWe also commend the UPND for being part of the process from the start when it was concluded. We are just now awaiting presidential assent,â€ Mr Kampyongo said.
Mpongwe MP Gabriel Namulambe said that the draft constitution had gone through as expected.
Mr Namulambe said in an interview that only four articles in the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill were voted out.Â These are: provincial assemblies, budgeting in simple majority, land being vested in the president and proportional representation.
â€œThe issue of provincial assembly and mixed proportional representative has not been dropped completely, but shelved for the future when the country has enough money,â€ he said.
Meanwhile, UPND Mazabuka MP Garry Nkombo expressed dismay at the passing of the constitution bills with amendments.
â€œOur party and as member of Parliament, we are quite sure that a lot of things have been excluded,â€ he said.
He said UPND wants to see how Zambians are going to react and what will happen now that the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill has been approved by Parliament.
The constitution making process had stalled until then President Michael Sata appointed Mr Edgar Lungu as Minister of Justice to replace Mr Wynter Kabimba.
Mr Lungu speared-headed the process and ensured continuity after being elected as President, following the death of Mr Sata.
Meanwhile, President Lungu has said that the passing of the bills in parliament is â€œa good developmentâ€.
He said yesterday that this is a fulfilment of peopleâ€™s constitution expectations.
Chief government spokesperson Chishimba Kambwili has said that some clauses were withdrawn because they would have been too costly to implement and could be a constraint on the national treasury, NKOMBO KACHEMBA reports in Mufulira.
Mr Kambwili said establishing provincial assemblies and the proportional representation system in Parliament would have meant having more than 592 politicians on government payroll.
And PF media and publicity committee vice-chairperson Sunday Chanda has commended President Lungu for fulfilling the promise of a people-driven constitution that has elluded Zambians since Zambiaâ€™s independence.
â€œZambians recall that constitution review commissions came and went but they never crystallised into law. This is a promise President Lungu is steadily fulfilling. Zambians can trust that President Lungu means well on the Constitution and they will not be making a mistake in trusting him on the Bill of Rights and the Referendum alongside the 2016 General Elections,â€ he said.
He said it is a wonder why the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) MPs voted against the Constitution Amendment Bill of 2015.
â€œThe reason is that UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema knows the 50+1 clause will disadvantage any leader like him,â€ he said.
KELVIN CHONGO, Lusaka