STEVEN MVULA,CAROLINE KALOMBE & KELVIN CHONGO, Lusaka
OPPOSITION 4th Revolution (4R) president Eric Chanda has reacted sharply to assertions by the Grand Coalition on the campaign for a people-driven constitution that Government has duped the people over the bill, and has since branded them unrealistic, unfair and un-Zambian.â€
And Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) has commended members of Parliament for giving Zambians a people-driven constitution, saying that many progressive articles which people wanted have been included.
In a telephone interview yesterday, the emotionally charged Mr Chanda said it is now time the Grand Coalition gave Zambians a break on the constitution talk.
â€œComrade, go and tell the so-called Grand Coalition or whatever you call them that Zambians are no longer interested in the constitution talk because this Government has lived up to its word. Let them talk about issues that will bring food on peopleâ€™s tables,â€ Mr Chanda said.
He said the Grand Coalition is taking the country 360 degree backwards by talking about a matter that has been resolved.
Yesterday, the Grand Coalition claimed that the PF have failed to give Zambians a constitution of their choice
â€œPresident Lungu has given what they demanded. What more do they want? As 4R, we will not sit idly by and watch them bring petty issues. They are being unrealistic and unfair to Zambians whom they claim to speak for,â€ Mr Chanda said.
Mr Chanda said now that a new document with progressive clauses is in place, only awaiting presidential assent, it is time to start mending the economy.
â€œI heard them say they will continue to de-campaign the PF. Well, let them take me on instead. Huge sums of money were spent to come up with that document and now they want to trivialise it. As 4R, we will not allow it,â€ he said.
Parliament has passed the constitution bill which includes key clauses the 50 percent-plus-one vote threshold for one to be elected president; the vice-president being a running mate; enshrining the date of elections in the constitution; dual citizenship and barring an MP who crosses the floor from re-contesting the seat.
And National Restoration Party (NAREP) president Elias Chipimo Jr says the new constitution contains elements that are good and its enactment is generally a step in the right direction.
Mr Chipimo noted that the constitution will reduce the power of the republican President, increase government accountability, stabilise Parliament by preventing frequent and costly by-elections, and offers improved protection and enforcement of civil and communal rights.
â€œThe passing of the constitution amendment bill will be the first time in the history of Zambia that there will be a running mate, where in the event the president dies, the vice-president will automatically become president without the country holding elections,â€ he said.
Mr Chipimo said that it will also be the first time that a date for general elections is enshrined in the constitution rather than the incumbent president setting the date.
The NAREP leader said although the new constitution is not perfect, the changes should nevertheless be cautiously welcomed, if there is an assurance that the referendum on the bill of rights will be held at the same time as the tripartite elections in 2016.
Meanwhile, in commending parliamentarians, TIZ acting president Sampa Kalungu noted progressive articles in the amended constitution such as dual citizenship and on the electoral system, the 50 percent-plus-one threshold for election as a president.
â€œAs TIZ, we believe that these clauses will do away with the much despised regional politics that has slowly taken centre stage of this country and to a large extent, this clause will help to promote oneness in this country by producing a popular president elected by majority Zambians,â€ Mr Kalungu said.
He said the access to media clause will promote an equal playing field for both the ruling and opposition because there will be equal coverage of all political engagements by media organisations, especially the national broadcaster and print media.
Mr Kalungu said once the bill is assented to, the 2016 general elections will be held on August 11, 2016. This, he said, will accord both the ruling and opposition political parties time to plan their campaigns.
â€œIn moving forward, we call on stakeholders to now focus on ensuring that we have a campaign that will ensure the 2016 national referendum adopts the remaining clauses and articles that were left out,â€ he said.
Mr Kalungu said stakeholders should not waste time crying over spilt milk but soldier on because progress has now been made in the constitution-making process that the country has been failing to do for many years.
Kenyan High Commissioner to Zambia, Malawi and COMESA Sophy Kombe said the 50 percent-plus-one vote electoral system has worked well in her country.
In an interview, Ms Kombe expressed optimism that the system will also work for Zambia and give the nation a majoritarian president.
â€œThis clause simply means that a president is voted for by more than 50 percent of the eligible voters. I am sure it will work for this country,â€ Ms Kombe said.
Ms Kombe said since politics is a game of numbers, the running mate clause works to the advantage of the incumbent.
In a separate interview, PF Lusaka Province youth chairperson Kennedy Kamba wondered what the Grand Coalition was up to by claiming that Government has duped Zambians on the constitution.
Mr Kamba challenged the Grand Coalition to state if they are not happy that clauses like the 50 percent plus one vote, running mate, and dual citizenship have been adopted.
â€œI would really want to know if the UPND and the Grand Coalition are not happy with what Zambians wanted,â€ he said.
STEVEN MVULA,CAROLINE KALOMBE & KELVIN CHONGO, Lusaka