Law Association of Zambia president Eddie Mwitwa on Tuesday charged that the proposed Amendment Bill has been structured to allow gerrymandering, a deliberate ploy by the ruling PF to manipulate the boundaries of an electoral constituency so as to gain political advantage over other parties.
And the CSOs have highlighted a number of effects which would come with the proposed amendments.
Among the effects that have been highlighted are reintroduction of deputy ministers, removing the constitutional limit on the number of constituencies, coalition government and compromising the superior courts of Zambia.
Commenting on the introduction of deputy ministers, the organisations have said in a statement issued to the media that the amendment would be costly to Zambians and that it was rejected in the last constitution reviews.
“This is a proposal that the people of Zambia rejected in the last constitution reviews process. This amendment would be costly to the Zambian people at a time when the country should be taking austerity measures given the high levels of debt in the country.it comes at a time when many Zambians are struggling to make ends meet due to the high cost of living. These resources could be better used to meet basic services as health, education, water and sanitation,” reads the statement signed by Chapter One Foundation executive director Linda Kasonde, issued on behalf of Actionaid Zambia, Alliance for Community Action (ACA), Caritas Zambia, Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD), Civil Society Constitutional Agenda (CISCA), Engwase Mwale, Lewis Mwape and Pamela Chisanga.
They further stated that the removal of constitutional limit on the number of constituencies can lead to a one party dictatorship.
It has clarified that the party in power will be able to increase the number of Members of Parliament to ensure they always have the majority in parliament and therefore make it easier for them to pass a bill.
The organizations have further stated that ability to increase the number of MPs will come at a cost to the citizens who have to pay the salaries of these MPs ‘at a time when money is hard to come by’.
On the coalition government, they have stated that the proposal undermines the will of the people, adding that it is not suitable for a country like Zambia as it currently operates under a presidential system.
“The proposed introduction of the coalition governments in the event that the party leading in general election fails to meet the current 50% threshold to form government undermines the will of the people as stated in the final draft constitution drafted by the technical committee, to have a government elected by the majority of the people in Zambia (over 50% of the electorate). It also means that a political party can form government by partnering with another political party that was largely rejected by the electorate. This means that the power of the people of Zambia to elect a government of their choice will be undermined. Additionally, as stated by Mr. Mwitwa, coalition government are only suited to a parliamentary system of government. Zambia currently operates under a presidential system of government where the electorate votes for the president direct unlike in the parliamentary system where the ruling party selects who the head of state will be. This is problematic not only because the people of Zambia have consistently opted for a presidential system of government but also because the framework of the constitution, even with the proposed amendments, does not support the coalition system of the government,” reads the statement.
The statement has further stated that unlimited number of judges will compromise the superior courts of Zambia as party in power can pack the courts with judges that are sympathetic towards the subsequently interfering and undermining the independence of the judiciary.