The CCZ has noted that the ruling Patriotic Front has equally not supported some of the recommendations of the Bill such as reintroduction of deputy ministers and provision for the creation of a coalition government.
“To begin with, we, the Council of Churches in Zambia, wish to recognize and acknowledge the change in position by the ruling Patriotic Front Party on some unprogressive resolutions made by the National Dialogue Forum (NDF) and we note the following: (a) The proposal to amend the system on voting of the President to include the possibility of forming of a coalition government is not supported. In that regard Articles 101 and 102 are to remain as they appear in the current Constitution. The President should draw his/her mandate directly from the majority of the people. b) The proposal to amend Articles 112 and include a new Article 117A so as to create the office of Deputy Minister is not supported. The PF Government is still committed to a lean Government,” CCZ general secretary Fr Emmannuel Chikoya has stated.
“The Council of Churches in Zambia being a Church Organisation is pleased to note that the ruling party has finally realised that some proposals to the Constitution do not mean well for the development of Zambia hence the convention of hearts. We, however, still call upon the ruling party and those that are in support of the Constitution Amendment Bill to extend their conversion of hearts to the realization that the whole Constitution Amendment Bill is not progressive and thus must be withdrawn altogether. The Bill has too many unfair, ambiguous and undefined pieces thereby not serving the interests of majority Zambians. We further extend our call to all Members of Parliament not to support the Constitution Amendment Bill 2019 and instead choose to stand on the side of majority Zambians.”
On the Electoral Process Amendment Bill 2019, the CCZ feels the proposal to reduce he campaign period from 90 days to 60 days was unjustifiable considering the vastness of Zambia.
“The proposed amendment to Section 2 (a) of the Electoral Process Act No. 35 of 2016 that the campaign period be reduced from three to two months does not improve the electoral environment pertaining in Zambia in any way. This is because this blanket provision relates to all elections without distinction and without considering the magnitude and importance of the election. It cannot be over emphasised, given how vast Zambia is, the extent of our rural population and the limitation of resources of most political players outside of the ruling party, that this provision will inevitably deprive the electorate of the benefit of engaging and interacting with all aspiring candidates,” Fr Chikoya stated. “This is more unjustifiable when related to presidential elections where there is a single Constituency because aspirants with limited resources need as much time as possible to canvas their constituencies to compensate for their limitations. The proposed amendment limits that time thus disadvantaging such aspirants and ultimately the electorate.”
On the Public Order Bill 2019, he noted that a bulk of problems had arise over the years.
“There has been an apparent impression that those applying the law, the Police Service, have under that law an inherent power to either permit or deny an assembly from taking place. In-as-much-as the law requires that notification be given to the Police by those seeking to hold a public gathering, the Police Service have been seen to take the requirement for notification and response thereto as power for them to either permit or deny the going ahead of a public gathering,” Fr Chikoya stated.
The CCZ has since suggested ways in which to cure “apparent gaps” in the Public Order Act.
“…we wish to agree with other stakeholders that: a) The notion of ‘notification’ under the Act needs to be properly spelt out so that both the Zambia Police Service and negatively affected stakeholders, most of whom include opposition political parties during election campaign periods, are properly guided on the proper application of the Act. b) There is need to provide a timeframe within which the Zambia Police Service can respond to a notification of the holding of a public gathering, that is, seeing that the law provides a five-day window for the holding of such a gathering, then it should follow that the law should provide that the Zambia Police Service should provide feedback to those notifying it within two days of receipt of such notification. c) The Zambia Police Service should work within a legal prescribed timeline within which to provide an alternative date to those seeking to hold such a public gathering. Such time line should be within 10 working days or any other later date proposed by the party notifying the Police,” Fr Chikoya stated.
“d) Such feedback should extend to the availability or non-availability of the Police to police the said event. Further, in providing such feedback, Police should avoid being malicious, arbitrary or worse still act according to instructions from the party in power. The Police must be professional. In a case were the applicant for whatever reason is denied “permission” to hold a meeting, a demonstration or a procession, the police must be bound by law to give the applicant an alternative day and time not exceeding 14 working days in which the applicant must be allowed to hold the said meeting, demonstration or procession.”
He further suggested that: “e) There is need for the Act to give clear definition of what is termed or considered to be ‘normal’ or ‘customary’ processions contained in Section 4 (10). The relevance of having a clear guidance of the aforementioned terms is to provide guidance to the implementers and enforcers of the Act-the Police who may fall into temptation of arresting people on their personal fancies. f) The waiver given to government ministers not to notify the police when having meetings is a form of discrimination based on political affiliation or opinion. This waiver by the law gives them an advantage to circumvent the need to obtain ‘Police permission’ even where the minister is doing partisan and political functions. Therefore, a clear distinction must be sort between government functions or where a minister is discharging his employment duties and partisan/political functions. g) Religious gatherings should not be regulated under the Act. This should extend to other non-Christian religious activities; this clause should be removed as it is potentially addressed by the establishment of a Ministry for Religious Affairs and National Guidance as well as taken care of under the exemptions the Minister is permitted to give to certain organisations under the Act.”
He stated that unless the points highlighted were considered, the enactment of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill 2019 into law will not be serving the interests of majority Zambians.
“We have the obligation to ensure that a Country’s Constitution is clear and easy to understand. A Country’s Constitution must be a public document that must be understood by the ordinary person on the Zambian street. We, therefore, suggest that the best course of action is to withdraw it immediately and let Zambia continue with the current 2016 Amendment of the Constitution. When this government or any other gets serious about making legitimate changes to the Zambian constitution, they must follow proper procedure, open up a proper national dialogue process like one which was spearheaded by the Church, consult with the people of Zambia and enact a Constitution that is in keeping with constitutionalism, common sense and the rule of law,” Fr Chikoya stated.
On the Katuba Parliamentary by-election scheduled for July 30, 2019, the CCZ has called on all political parties participating in the polls to ensure a peaceful campaigns and ultimately election.
“We believe that a battle for ideas is the most ideal form of winning votes from the electorate other than the use of violence and intimidation. Winning an election is not about using hate speech or offensive language but rather it is a contest of ideas, fight for winning majority votes of the hearts and minds of the electorate, the selling of practicable policies and programs for improving the lives of the electorate. A free, fair and peaceful election is not hinged on just one political party alone working to ensure peace but on all political parties participating in an election,” stated Fr Chikoya.
“All stakeholders in the Katuba parliamentary by-election must have one goal of working hard to ensure a peaceful process during campaigns, on the Election Day itself and after the election. All individuals and parties seeking political mandate in a democracy like Zambia should know that elections must not be a matter of life and death neither should they be a battle of muscles but a battle of ideologies.”