“We Will make the law on your behalf”, President Edgar Lungu vowed at one of his national address last year and alerting those opposed to Bill 10.
But the preamble of our current Constitution opens thus: WE, THE PEOPLE OF ZAMBIA…and ends with…DO HEREBY SOLEMNLY ADOPT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION”. It does not say “I, the President or We, the Cabinet and/or the MPs, do hereby solemnly adopt and give to you this constitution”. The power to adopt a constitution is solemnly in hands of the people who have despised and rejected Bill 10 shoved on their throats by President Lungu.
It is actually an impeachable offence for the President to ignore the people’s power in constitution making as it is a clear violation of the Constitution he swore to protect and defend with the help of God. Does it mean God has stopped helping him in defending and protecting this constitution?
But why is President Lungu so obsessed with Bill 10?
After perusing through and sampling some clauses in Bill 10, one comes to the realisation that Bill 10 intends to award the President express, excessive and unfettered powers as I will demonstrate below. Bill 10 proposes to create an omnipotent President who is not checked by any institution of governance in Zambia.
Let me start with the proposed amendment 11 to Article. 52, Bill 10 proposes to repeal the aspect of challenging the nomination of a presidential candidate. You may all know that the issue of President Lungu’s candidacy on whether or not he is eligible for re-election as president in the 2021 presidential election continues to be a matter of public debate, gossip and could be a matter of legal challenge if the Electoral Commission accept his nomination for the 2021 general elections. According to Article 52 (4) which Bill 10 wants to repeal completely, it states that “a person may challenge, before a court or tribunal, as prescribed, the nomination of a candidate within 7 days of the close of nomination and the courts shall hear the case within 21 days of its lodgement.” Therefore, the repeal of this Article may make it difficult or even impossible to challenge a presidential candidate who is illegally nominated by the Electoral Commission of Zambia.
Amendment 12 to Article 60 proposes to repeal the provisions that awards political parties the right to disseminate social and economic information of their political ideologies and also the provisions that empowers them to sponsor candidates for election or nomination to a state office. This will leave the party in power to monopolize information dissemination and sponsorship of candidates to state office. This may be a recipe for the creation of a new version of a one party start and political power monopolization.
Bill 10 proposes to remove all provisions that provide oversights on the President and the presidency so that presidential excesses and expresses are reduced when discharging national duties and functions. Alas, amendment 13 to Article 63 removes parliament’s right and role to approve contraction of public debt, loans, international agreements and treaties before they are acceded to or ratified while Amendment 26 to Art 92 empowers the President’s Cabinet to negotiate, ratify or accede or sign international agreements and treaties such as ICC without the National Assembly approval as the current requirement.
Bill 10 is repealing Article 68 under amendment 15, an Article that creates parliament and prescribes its composition. Though Bill 10 does not guide what happens to this Article, pro Bill 10 advocate argue that this Art will be provided for in the subsidiary legislation. This basically means a President with simple majority in Parliament has been empowered to create Parliament and determine its composition. In essence, Parliament will no longer be a creation of the Constitution but the Party of majority in the House and shall be self-created creature only accountable to the President.
Bill 10 further intends to repeal Article 81 under amendment 22 so that Parliament does not dissolve itself 180 days to the election as per current provision but instead, empowers the President to dissolve Parliament and prorogue it by proclamation while amendment 27 to Article 94 empowers the President to overrule or ignore the decision of the National Assembly on a matter the President may bring before it.
While amendment 30 proposes to repeal Articles 101, 102, 103 and 103 and introduces a coalition government and make a bypass to 50%+1 provisions Bill 10 also intends to ensure that a President under petition stays on during the petition period and discards the role of the Speaker during the petition period.
Amendment 38 to Article 117, other than the already provided for powers of the President to nominate 8 persons as MPs and also appoint ministers, Bill 10 gives extra powers to the President to appoint an un-prescribed number of deputy ministers according to his determination to assist ministers while amendment 38 to Article 116 empowers his ministers to ‘continue to hold office until the next general election” which may create an uneven electoral play field in 2021 elections
Amendment 49 to Article 144, other than the power to appoint judges, Bill 10 entrenches the presidential powers to revoke the suspension of judge after a tribunal findings and/or removal a judge too while Amendment 51 to Article 149 awards further powers to the President to create or divide a province or merge two or more provinces without the National Assembly Approval.
Finally, the President, according to Bill 10 under amendment 57 through the executive, is poised to be empowered to introduce a law on the recognition or withdrawal of a person as a chief.
The above argument is not exhaustive but a synopsis of why possibly President Lungu wants Bill 10 enacted as to enable him bag all the above powers to himself once the bill is made law. The country then effectively ceases to be a multi party democracy.
I rest my case
By McDonald Chipenzi