Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have opposed the tabling of the National Dialogue Bill in Parliament in its current form and structure, saying it would not bring about the much needed reconciliation, consensus and national unity “so desperately required at present”.
The CSOs have, instead, proposed that the National Dialogue Bill of 2019 must not be regulated by law but be a standalone process facilitated by non-state actors from which principles to guide future interactions among different political parties and their respective supporters would be drawn.
The CSOs consisting Action Aid Zambia, Alliance for Community Action, Caritas Zambia, NGOCC, PANOS, Chikondi Foundation, GEARS, Pamela Chisanga, among others, convened at a joint press briefing on the National Dialogue Bill 2019 which is expected to be tabled in Parliament.
Other bills expected to be tabled together with the Dialogue Bill include the Political Parties Bill and amendments to the Electoral Process Act and the Public Order Act.
The CSO’s have since asked government not use the strength of incumbency and numbers to “walk a path this nation has walked before which leads only to wastage of resources and a flawed constitution requiring amendment as soon as it is adopted”.
They said it is in their considered view that while all these reforms were necessary, they must be undertaken as a distinct process involving the relevant stakeholders.
“Where it is an undeniable fact that the legislature has the mandate to enact laws in Zambia, constitution review presents a unique challenge since its legitimacy is directly derived from the people of Zambia and that in any democracy the people are Supreme and all power is reposed in them,” they stated.
They said the Bill does not provide an objective mediator in the national dialogue.
“…for instance, while the forum will consist of all members of Parliament, the Patriotic Front and its allies the MMD have more than 55 per cent representation, 8.5 per cent independents and 34.1 per cent opposition,” said the CSOs.
“…this would give the PF an unfair advantage and influence over the forum…the Bill seeks to cure mischiefs when it is a mischief in itself and will not achieve its intended purposes because it is a coercive Bill that, if passed into law, will create further mischiefs, deepen tension and divisions in the nation.”