By Guess Nyirenda – Executive Director – OPERATION YOUNG VOTE
Operation Young Vote (OYV) a Youth Non-Governmental Organization which deals with Youth Participation, Governance and the Electoral Process, Human Rights, Leadership and Sustainable Development and other related matters, is proud to have been and continues to be part of local community, district, provincial, national, regional and international endeavors in the last 20 years of its existence.
OYV is gratified to note how it has participated in critical National undertakings including the many constitution review processes and the comprehensive Electoral reviews such as the Electoral Reform Technical Committee (ERTC) from 2003 to 2005 that culminated in the 2006 Electoral Act. As OYV we pride in having had been among the experts that conducted these electoral reforms and made many progressive recommendations some of which were not used due to time and other limiting factors. OYV further prides of having been a vehicle for advocacy and lobbying for better and progressive legal frameworks for the citizens and country as a whole.
The Constitution Amendment Bill No. 10 a document currently on the table of Parliament awaiting second reading is no exception to our interrogation and critiquing.
The matter regarding Bill No. 10 has received attention (whether negative or positive) by many stakeholders if not most of them. Much as the debates for and against the Bill either in its entirety or specific individual or a collection of articles have not been robust especially on the part of engaging ordinary citizens, the question of how much robustness and who determines such arises. To abate such challenges, allay fears and demystify the lack of citizens ‘full’ participation, matters of representative democracy weigh in.
As a country, we must also appreciate that the window of engagement through the Parliamentary Select Committee which was presided over by Nominated Member of Parliament Hon. Raphael Nakachinda was an opportunity for all stakeholders including citizens to make reactions and submissions on the Bill. It is clear that the Committee endeavored to accommodate as many views from a variety of stakeholders that made submissions and this is evidenced by its comprehensive, objective and well-balanced report delivered.
OYV’s Conviction On Bil 10 Going Forward
As already noted, the report by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Bill No. 10 has demystified the fears that Zambians had on the National Dialogue Forum (which had its own flaws) and Bill No. 10 regarding whether or not Government had hidden motives. It is clear from the comprehensive, objective and well-balanced report on the Constitution Amendment Bill No. 10, by the Select Committee that most views by stakeholders were accounted for and taken on board.
The report is indicative of how strong and reliable some institutions are to Zambia’s democracy, where citizens and stakeholders including politicians and political parties tried to bring to the fore the will of the people through the Committee.
We are of the view that the Constitution Amendment Bill No. 10, the Report by Select Committee on Bill No. 10 and the remaining but yet to be undertaken processes in Parliament presents a window for the nation to move to another level in terms of not only building but also bettering our constitution.
Today almost every stakeholder is commending the Report by the Select Committee as being objective – Why – The simple answer is because the process was allowed and we saw how different MPs from different political parties deliberated and scrutinized the Bill. This is as it should be. This is democracy.
The progressive Report on Bill No. 10 clearly highlights the concerns of the Civil Society, Political Parties, other stakeholders and all Zambians. We can only urge all MPs to use these as guidance as they debate.
If the Select Committee can do such a job commended by almost all stakeholders, it remains our conviction that the entire house would do even a much great job for the sake of the people they represent individually as MPs for specific constituencies but more so for the larger good of Zambia and posterity. We, therefore, must allow the wheels of Bill No. 10 to roll in Parliament. Let the process go for second reading.
We would like to call on all MPs (from the ruling and opposition political parties, including the independent) to take this as an opportunity to showcase their representativeness of their respective constituencies and constituents by being efficacy in their engagement and debate on Bill No. 10, of course, taking into account and guided by the report of the Select Committee and the many demands by citizens whose voices may seem silent in the meantime.
Remember Zambians are watching and keenly so. We need to move to the next level. Remember also that accountability is to the Zambians and not to self or political parties of affiliation. The Zambians are the final judges. They are judging. They know who has what motives and intentions. They will give their final verdict.
We must emphasize and encourage all to exercise the principle and doctrine of give and take if Zambia is to have a constitution that is consistent with the values and aspirations of its people. World over, where constitutions or rules governing the people are progressive, the principle of give and take is given center stage.
This, therefore, means that the withdrawal of the Bill may not be the best option for Zambia and Zambians. Instead going ahead with the second reading of the Bill and commence debates guided by the comprehensive, objective and well balanced Select Committee Report on the Bill and also by the many demands on the aspirations of the citizens (of course with the doctrine of ‘give and take’ taking center stage) would be the remedy to the current Constitutional Making impasse we are currently in.
In conclusion, OYV would like to appeal to Government (the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature) made up of stakeholders from both the ruling and opposition political parties in terms of Parliament, to allow the wheels of Bill No. 10 to regain motion and go for the second reading which must be supported going forward. The rest of the stakeholders including all citizens must follow keenly, see those that do not mean well and make the judgment, especially during the 2021 elections.
OYV would like to see progress on this matter. Our appeal is that both the ruling and the opposition political parties must realize Zambia is bigger than them and must endeavor propagating this matter putting themselves in the shoes of ordinary Zambian. All our Parliamentarians must remember that they will not always be in those privileged positions. They should for once think of themselves being ordinary citizens – where they came from and think of what kind of law is best for ordinary citizens.
With the foregoing OYV, therefore, recommends the following:
- That the wheels of Constitution Amendment Bill No. 10 be set in motion and supported by our representatives at second reading;
- That all MPs regardless of their political affiliation endeavor to be guided by the outcome of the comprehensive, objective and well-balanced Report of the Select Committee on Bill No. 10 presided over by nominated MP Hon Raphael Nakachinda during engagement;
- That the principle and doctrine of giving and take especially by our political elite be promoted and nurtured on this matter if Zambia is to have a constitution that is consistent with the values and aspirations of its people.
- That Dialogue be promoted among political competitors, stakeholders, and citizens on the matter so as to ensure that no one is left behind
- That all stakeholders and citizens must follow and participate keenly in this matter and take their respective MPs to task for any omission or failure to deliver on the Constitution;
- That no one person or group or groups of persons should be allowed to coerce or intimidate another into supporting or not supporting their point of view on the matter. Each citizen must be allowed to hold their opinion and run with it. Debate must be promoted and the principle and doctrine of give and take must take centre stage;
- That getting into the second half of 2020, the country must be talking of conducting robust awareness on matters relating to the Electoral Process and Elections knowing that we have put behind us the matter regarding the constitution.