[By Gibson Kapili]
THE period between now and 12th August 2021 presents defining moments in the history of our country.
The gravest mistake of our generation will be to pass Bill 10 into law. It will poison politics and the economy for generations to come. James Arthur Ray once said, “In life’s defining moments, there are two choices – you either step forward in faith and power or you step backward into fear.” Fear in this case includes accepting corruption.
When you see an African president making self-conscious efforts to repudiate the essential characteristics of the Constitution and destroy its foundation without people showing the will to allow major changes in an election year, just know that his motives are destructive. While in other African countries snares are hidden by framers of the Bill, PF has openly shown us that the objective of overhauling the Constitution is neither correcting the flaws nor making clauses elaborative, but to manipulate the Constitution to their advantage. It explains why they are coercing MPs rather than winning their understanding.
Some opposition MPs are being induced with money while those in PF are being promised re-adoption. Yet, several of them will not be adopted, especially those who signed the petition to impeach the Head of State.
Our democracy is currently on the deathbed. In any governance system, the executive is always the primary source of tyranny. A Constitution is the only mechanism of controlling them. One thing that I have learnt is that as we allow and watch politicians to push the boundary of their influence dressed with arrogance and selfish ambition, we strengthen self-belief. And that leads them to further entrench themselves in power, regardless of how they may perform.
Ignorance is very risky. People perish for lack of knowledge, says the Bible. Many Zambians have a limited view of the destructive Bill 10 will cause if passed into law. It will destroy constitutional democracy, legimitise corruption and legalise dictatorship. It will change the social and political order such that it will take many years and bloodshed of our children for our governance system to return to democracy. It is important at this juncture to thank UPND and Independent MPs who God is using to defend our freedoms and rights. They have resisted the pressure into giving up their fight for defending the manipulation of our constitution. We continue keeping our fingers crossed as we remain with less than 10 months before elections.
Bill 10 will repeal Article 47(2) “First -past the post electoral system” and replace it with “Mixed member electoral system.” This should be read together with Article 68, where PF government currently seeks to remove the limit of 168 MPs to a limitless number. This will ensure that PF has the majority in parliament.
Dictators flourish when there is no freedom of speech to voice out the wrongs or a free press, but most importantly when we give them a majoritarian parliament. The Bill will also lead to electoral fraud and institutionalise elective dictatorship. Bill 10 could criminalise questioning decisions of the executive. For instance, they may embed a law in the Constitution that if you allege something about the executive without evidence you commit an offence.
They could even embed a law that if you have stood for elections four times you are banned from standing. Equally, the two-term eligibility clause for a presidential candidate may be repealed. Basically, it simply means that the Constitution will lose its purpose. It will become a tool of fixing opponents rather than foundational agreement that holds the hopes and dreams of a nation.
The doctrine of separation of powers and checks of powers
In the current Constitution, power is somehow balanced among the three arms of government. Bill 10 will destroy the separation of powers between the three arms of government. The executive will have unabated power and excess control over the legislature and judiciary. This simply means that the executive with a skewed Parliament could even use marshal law for genuine peaceful protests of citizens, and the oppression of people will be legally sanctioned in the Constitution. This has been demonstrated by excessive procurement of military equipment for the police.
It is now clear why God allowed a hang parliament. He knew that one day Caesar who was considered as a life dictator during the Roman Empire would resurrect in Zambia. On 18th October 2020 during the National Day of Prayer and Fasting, one priest told us that we have a Caesar in Zambia. On this day, our democracy was sacrificed on the altar of the goddess. There were prayers in tongues to ensure Bill 10 goes through.
Truth be told, no human being wants to go through pain in life, whether the oppressed or the oppressor. We may suffer brutality and persecution now, provided we know that we have a Constitution that can defend our dignity, rights and freedoms, then we have hope that one day things will turn around for better. Egypt mistreated Israel for 400 years (PF four years), but in less than a year God turned things around for them.
Despite being under PF siege, the edifice of the Zambian Constitution has endured so far. I appeal to our MPs to please not forget the purpose of the Constitution. They should be prepared to sacrifice instant gratification for the fulfillment of a bigger purpose. A Constitution is a heritage, which we shall bequeath our future generation.
The author is a Zambian citizen who believes in healthy democracy, and not elective dictatorship. Send comment to: [email protected]