Editor's Comment

MPs should support Bill 10

AS CONSTITUTION (Amendment) Bill No 10 of 2019 comes up for second reading in Parliament today, it is our hope that lawmakers have made up their minds to put national interest first.
Like many Zambians, we are tired of politicians pushing their political agenda at the expense of national interest.
The debate on Bill 10 has unfortunately been marred by political connotations despite the piece of legislation being very progressive.
Anyone who has read the bill, which is in public domain, will attest that it is a progressive law.
For instance, the bill provides for rights of the minority and vulnerable groups such as women, youths and the disabled. Through the proposed bill, these groups of people are to be afforded proportionate representation in Parliament. Who would not want to see these groups fairly represented in governance? This has been a cry of many stakeholders, particularly non-governmental organisations.
The proposed bill also seeks to entrench the declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation. This is who we are as a people and there is absolutely nothing wrong with stamping that identity like other faiths do.
The bill further seeks to empower traditional leaders beyond lip-service.
In our view, Bill 10 is progressive and must be embraced by all patriotic Zambians. It should not be used as an instrument of power play between political interests.
It is disappointing that many of those opposed to the bill are not putting up substantiated debate on what is wrong with it. Unfortunately, though, some citizens have been interested in believing that there is some hidden evil in the bill. Politicians should realise that they are opinion leaders and that what they say is in most cases taken as Gospel truth. It is, therefore, important that as they debate any matter, facts should not be traded for expediency no matter the prize.
The arguments being put forward are vague and do not pinpoint areas of concern. The United Party for National Development has not put up any solid argument to support its position that the bill is bad for Zambians.
For instance, one of the arguments advanced is that Bill 10 is aimed at perpetuating the stay of President Edgar Lungu and the Patriotic Front in power.
Well, Bill 10 was published and Zambians should read to know if there is any clause that perpetuates President Lungu’s stay in power. The UPND should point at specific clauses in the bill that support such a misleading argument.
Unlike putting up general sentiments, there is need for those opposed to be specific on how the     bill will perpetuate the stay of President Lungu in office. Failure to do so entails that it is plain politicking.
Those opposed to it have also argued that there has not been consensus on the same. That’s not only lame but also false because history has it that the process to which the bill has been subjected is one that is inclusive.
In case some people have forgotten, Bill 10 was borne out of consensus of all political parties. After the 2016 general elections, and due to the shortcomings observed in the Constitution, the Electoral Process Act and Public order Act, political parties met in Siavonga and that is where the idea of the amendments was birthed.
This was followed by the National Dialogue Forum, whose composition was broadly selected to ensure that all stakeholders from various spheres of life were included.
The composition included politicians, traditional leaders, church leaders, academicians, civil society, women, and youths, among many other stakeholders.
Those who did not attend the forum chose not to at their own will and should not turn around and sabotage the process.
It is, therefore, unacceptable for them to turn around and claim that the process was not consultative and that there was no consensus.
We also know that even after the National Dialogue Forum, issues which were deemed as contentious, such as reinstatement of deputy ministers, were dropped.
Even after going to lengths to remove contentious clauses, some people seem not to be content.
This raises questions of what their agenda is. Certainly if their interest is to see a better country, they should know by now that the bill is well intended.
We have not forgotten how Zambians were robbed of a progressive legislation in the name of the Bill of Rights by selfish politicians who cannot think beyond their political ambitions.
In 2016 when the Bill of Rights was put up for a referendum, some politicians, in the name of politicking, went to great lengths to discredit the legislation, taking advantage of the illiterate, especially in rural areas.
They misled people by claiming that the Bill of Rights proposed was a bad law meant to harm them, yet it was meant to enhance the enjoyment of rights.
Today, the same politicians are up in arms against Bill 10. What is their agenda?
As the lawmakers debate Bill 10 in Parliament today, we expect them to take off their political hats and wear those of national interest.
Our politicians must be reminded that they are there to serve the people, not personal or political interests.
If at all they let this bill slip through like they did with the Bill of Rights, posterity will certainly judge them harshly.

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