By Sakwiba Sikota
Now that we are going to be getting the proposed amendments to our laws as debated and arrived at the NDF, it is important that all Zambians look at them soberly and with the best interests of the people in mind.
One may not agree with all of the suggested changes but the answer is not to throw the baby with the bath water. A reasonable and sober approach demands that we look at each proposed change and to identify the baby; those that are without any controversy. No one with goodwill should politic about these issues.
Upon introduction of the bills in Parliament they undergo various stages of enactment. At those various stages there are opportunities to debate and persuade others to your viewpoint. There is also the possibility of putting forward amendments to the legislation. I have been in Parliament before and I am very much aware that even if you come from a party that does not command a majority in Parliament, with skillful and competent debate you can get your amendments to be adopted.
There is also the final reading of any bill and if at that stage you are still not happy with the changes that may have been adopted you can bite against the bill. Do not throw out the baby with the bath water before attempting to embrace and adopt the baby.
There are several “babies” born out of the NDF.
Do not throw out the baby electronic registration and disappoint the many Zambians in the diaspora who under the NDF would be entitled to electronically register to vote without having to undertake a costly trip back home.
Do not throw out the baby electronic voting and disappoint the many Zambians in the diaspora who under the NDF would be entitled to electronically vote in the general and presidential elections without having to undertake a costly trip back home.
Do not throw out the baby seeking to give notice of a public demonstration or March and disappoint the many seeking public processions and meetings, as the NDF makes it clear that under the Public Order Act you do not need a permit and instead all you need do is to notify the authorities.
Do not throw out the gender and youth activist baby and disappoint the many who wish to see greater participation from marginalized groups as would be facilitated by the NDF Introduction of a mixed proportional representation system that mitigates against disadvantaging groups like women and youth.
Do not throw out the thrifty baby who seeks to lessen wastage of public resources and disappoint the many who would prioritize expenditure in social and productive areas as would be facilitated by the NDF Introduction of a mixed proportional representation system that mitigates against multiple and costly bye elections.
Do not throw out the baby who seeks reduction of tension and costs and disappoint the many who think we spend too much time politicking and campaigning who would happily find that the NDF Provides for coalition government to save on costly presidential run off. We would only have a run off if the parties failed to be mature enough to talk amongst themselves with Zambia rather than self being the motivator. Just look at how Mauritius has been one of the fastest and consistently thriving economy with coalition government after coalition government over the decades.
Do not throw out the baby and disappoint the many who lose Presidential Elections and disappoint the many losers who the NDF Provides for a longer period for conclusion of Presidential election petitions. Believe me, that no matter how many times one loses the Presidential race, they never get used to it and the election petition route may be the answer or at least help ease the pain.
Do not throw out the baby who says Zambia is a Christian Nation and disappoint the many Christians who have further recognition of our Faith.
Do not throw out the baby and disappoint the many who seek greater freedom of assembly and speech by denying them the proposed benefit under the proposed Public Order Act which would compel the police to give an alternative date within a maximum prescribed period of time for the holding of the event. This would have greatly benefitted the Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CISCA) protestors who wanted to protest against the NDF but the police told them they could not. I hope they will seek to protest and lobby for this law to be changed as proposed by the NDF!
Do not throw away the above provisions and disappoint the many like the youth, the women, the marginalized, those in the diaspora, those seeking stability and the many seeking better use of our resources who would benefit from the matters highlighted above.
Do not throw out the baby and disappoint the many.