Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda has urged the Civil Society to insist that all the 158 MPs must debate the Constitutional Bills so we can hear them debate before voting. In a statement released to the media, Brig Gen Miyanda said that he disagreed that Members of Parliament must just pass the Constitutional Bills now before Parliament without changing anything.
Below is the full statement
STATEMENT: WHY MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT MUST DEBATE BILLS BEFORE VOTING
[By Brig Gen Godfrey Miyanda – 7th December 2015]
I beg to disagree that Members of Parliament must just pass the Constitutional Bills now before Parliament without changing anything. Though our Civil Society have some valid concerns, I believe they are being simplistic to suggest that MPs should just pass whatever is in the Bills. It is true that once the people have spoken their wishes must “in theory” be the command to their representatives to comply with. However the making and writing of a constitution has so many implications on the lives of citizens; there are also some technical and legal aspects that need to be ironed out and harmonised afterwards by the draftsmen to avoid inconsistencies and contradictions in the current and future laws and to ensure that what becomes law is what was intended.
Thus our MPs must debate before voting; our MPs must be like a good surgeon, cutting up each clause and questioning every word that does not make sense. For instance, I would be interested to hear a debate for and against the “popular” majoritarian “50 per cent plus one”. The way it is couched in the Draft Constitution does NOT convince me that it will achieve the majoritarian president which many are alleging it will produce. Clause 47 (1) provides that “Elections to the office of President shall be conducted directly, under a majoritarian electoral system, where the winning candidate must receive more than fifty percent OF THE VALID VOTES CAST…….”. This means that the fifty percent plus one vote is NOT of eligible voters but merely of those who have voted. Let us say that there are five million eligible voters, of which only two million turn up to vote because of apathy; and let us also say that of the two million who have voted five hundred are declared invalid by the Returning Officer. The fifty per cent plus one will be NOT of five million but of 1500 votes, a paltry fraction of the 14 million Zambians! And Civil Society will accept such a winner as the majoritarian president! The only way such a system will usher in a majority president is when all eligible voters are compelled to vote, whether they like it or not. Otherwise this will remain a joke in the Constitution.
Back to debating. Speaking, talking or debating is probably the only justifiable reason that we pay Members of Parliament. Therefore I urge Civil Society to insist that all the 158 MPs must debate the Constitutional Bills so we can hear them debate before voting. Can they talk? Do they understand what they say and/or the laws that they pass or do they just open their mouths to make some sound (like aye, aye, aye) and earn their salary? Can they “parley”? If not they must not be in Parliament.
[7TH DECEMBER 2015]