CIVIL society organisations that participated in the just ended National Dialogue Forum say only those that want to see the injustice repeated in 2021 and future elections can oppose the enactment of the Constitution Amendment Bill. In a statement, Constitutional Reform and Education Coalition (CRECO) chairperson Hyde Haguta said the grouping would defend the resolutions of the NDF by undertaking countrywide public awareness and sensitisation campaigns.
He said the country was coming from a hotly contested 2016 elections whose election petition by the UPND leaders was not heard because the 14 days timeframe was not sufficient to hear it.
“Again, we as civil society played a key role at the Forum to ensure we extend the hearing and determination of the petition to fall within 30 actual or calendar days. Only those who want to see the injustice repeated in 2021 and future elections can oppose the enactment of the Constitution Amendment Bill,” he said.
Haguta said the National Dialogue Forum was also extremely progressive by responding to the long-standing calls to repeal the 1955 Public Order Act and replacing it with one that would expressly provide for people’s freedom of assembly, conscience, and expression. He said the new PoA had very progressive provisions.
“For example, under the proposed Section 4, all indoor meetings of organs of political parties, religious gatherings, student and trade unions will be exempted from falling under the Public Act. The NDF also rejected, as unconstitutional provisions that would make people get jailed for failing to sing the National Anthem,” he said
Haguta, who is also MISA vice chairperson, said as soon as the National Dialogue Forum was constituted, some doomsayers instituted a very strong propaganda that the Forum was meant to bar a known opposition presidential aspirant from contesting the 2021 elections and also extend the presidential term from the current five years to seven years.
Haguta said few unsuspecting organisations stayed away without interrogating the lies but for others, it had been the usual negative agenda so long as such processes are not led by them or those groupings they have gone to bed with.
“But we would like to, once again, thank the leadership of some institutions such as the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia and Non Governmental Organisations Coordinating Committee (NGOCC), for taking a bold step to make independent decisions by attending the Forum, actively participating in setting the agenda of the Forum and getting some of the best outcomes for their constituent members and for Zambia at large,” he said.
“We are aware that over the next few days, the nation will witness a well-orchestrated scheme not only to mislead the public on the outcome of the National Dialogue Forum but also to discredit the process that attracted participation from all walks of life.”
Haguta said the Forum had representation from representatives of persons with disabilities, civil society, professional bodies, which include the Law Association of Zambia, political parties, government ministries and lawmakers from all major parties, including UPND. Haguta said the successes of the NDF could be seen from the adopted three Bills, which if enacted, would change the socio-political landscape in the country.
“Firstly, the National Dialogue was very categorical in reaffirming that Zambia remains a Christian Nation while promoting the flourishing of other religions and protecting people’s exercise of their freedom of conscience,” he said
“When we went to the NDF, we had a mission to stand by what the majority of our women, youth and persons with disabilities have been fighting for, for a long time. Our women, persons with disabilities and the youth have never rested to fight for fair representation in both the National Assembly and Councils.”
Haguta said the NDF delivered this desire to the women, youth and persons with disabilities after half a century of the struggle by adopting the mixed member electoral system system.
“We are proud to have stood for our women, youth and persons with disabilities. We as civil society strongly advocated and championed for a constitutional provision that provide for formation of coalition government by two or more presidential candidates who will be required to have a combined total of 50 per cent plus 1 valid votes in order to avoid a costly rerun if possible,” he said.
“This coalition government system will not only help to avoid a costly run off where the parties with a sum total of 50 per cent plus 1 reach an agreement to form a coalition government but will also help the players to live to the very spirit for which they are forming alliances and coalitions before elections.”
Haguta said the CSOs were happy to have also changed the electoral law by providing for the independence of the Commission and giving it more powers to penalise candidates and parties that contribute to violence. He said what was probably more innovative was an agreement to move by the government to consider coming up with the Electoral System Act that should provide further details on how the mixed member electoral system would work, the presidential electoral system that provides for 50 per cent plus 1, a possible coalition government, and run-off where the presidential candidates fail to agree to forming a coalition Government.
He said as civil society, the next step would be to work with the government to research and propose such a Bill. Haguta said in order to ensure the people were not mislead anymore by doomsayers, the Ministry of Justice should publish the three Bills (Constitutional, Electoral Process Amendment Bills and the Public Order Bill, 2019) for the public to read for themselves and engage in a meaningful discussion.
“As CRECO, we would like to inform the Zambian people that we shall defend the resolutions of the NDF by undertaking countrywide public awareness and sensitisation campaigns. In addition, CRECO shall initiate the deliberations on the electoral systems bill in collaboration with various stakeholders who are willing to push for a mixed member proportional representation,” said Haguta.