KELVIN CHONGO, Lusaka
PARLIAMENT last night overwhelmingly agreed to pend the mixed member proportional representative clause from the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment Bill) National Assembly Bill (NAB) Number 17 of 2015.
The House voted 110 in favour of pending the proposal with 39 objecting and 1 abstaining.
This followed protracted debate by members of parliament (MPs) on whether or not the clause must remain on the bill.
The Proportional Representation Clause sought to increase the number of members of parliament by 94.
Overall the Amendment Bill number 17 of 2015 seeks to amend non-contentious issues in the 1996 Republican Constitution such as 50 percent plus one Presidential Electoral Threshold and Vice Presidential Running Mate Clause.
Minister of Justice Ngosa Simbyakula in proposing an amendment to the bill meant to remove the proportional representation (PR) clause said this was necessitated by the need to provide for further consultation.
â€œWe are proposing that the proportional representation be packed for the time being for further reflection and consultation to a later stage.Â The Patriotic Front is not discarding this principle of PR.Â We thought the people of Zambia should further reflect on this proposal,â€ Dr Simbyakula said.
During debate, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Chishimba Kambwili said it would be irresponsible for the Government to pass the clause which would entailed more costs.
He noted that the proposal includes increasing the number of MPs to 94 but that Government at the moment cannot meet the cost of more MPs.
He wondered why UPND would object to pending the costly proposal when they (the opposition party) complained that the Cabinet is bloated after it was increased by three.
He said instead of spending money on 94 more MPs it would be more prudent to spend the money on timely payment of salaries for civil servants and for buying medicines.
â€˜It would be irresponsible for us as the people in Government to add on the number of MPs when we have few doctors, few nurses.Â That money you want to pay (more) MPs let us go and pay for more teachers, more nurses and buy drugs in hospitals,â€ he said.
Kawambwa MP Nickson Chilangwa said MPs should earn their seats and suggested that the number could be increased by splitting big constituencies.
UPND MPs Jack Mwiimbu and Garry Nkombo objected to pending the clause because it is what the people wanted to see in the constitution of Zambia.
KELVIN CHONGO, Lusaka