Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Brian Mundubile says the death penalty will remain on the statute books despite Government’s amendment of the Penal Code to abolish Capital Punishment.
Mr Mundubile who is also PF presidential candidate, said the death penalty will remain on the statute books because it falls under Part Three (III) of the Constitution, which is the Bill of Rights.
“Yes, some other enabling legislation like the Penal Code could be amended but that does not mean that it is no longer on our statute book. So maybe to put it in layman’s language, the UPND Government took a shortcut in trying to blind off that particular provision of the law. But what the proper procedure would be is a push for a referendum such that when there are amendments to Part III of our Constitution as required by Article 79 of our Constitution, then appropriate amendments can be made,” Mr Mundubile said.
He said the Constitution is the “grundnorm”, which represents the will of the people and that Zambians should be allowed to express themselves on how they want to be governed.
“If the Zambian people say they want us as a country to away with the death penalty, they will speak through the referendum so that it is removed from our Constitution. Before that you will have a smaller number of MPs with simple majority of Parliament amending the Penal Code and that is not the supreme will of the Zambian people. Because remember that the constituent power of this Republic, the sovereign power resides in the Zambian people. That is why there are safeguards to amend the Constitution, particularly part III,” Mr Mundubile said.
He said that there was an attempt to amend the Bill of Rights through a referendum held alongside the 2016 presidential elections.
He said, the referendum failed to meet the 50 percent participation threshold because then opposition UPND vigorously campaigned against it.
“You will agree with me that in areas where President Lungu won, they also voted for the referendum, in areas where President Hakainde Hichilema won in 2016, they voted against the referendum. It is a known fact that the UPND had gone all out to vote against the referendum. So sometimes we have people who talk about social shame, I think this is one area where the UPND Government should take a portion of the social shame for having gone flat out to campaign and vote against the referendum and now they want to come through the backdoor to begin to sneak and find shortcuts,” he said.
He said, political leaders should be careful with what they do when in opposition, adding that, the UPND vigorously campaigned against Constitution Amendment Bill 10 of 2019.
“The reason why President Hichilema or indeed the Minister of Justice, Hon. Mulambo Haimbe is unable to respond with satisfaction any question posed to them to do with constitution amendments is because of the arguments they had advanced against Constitution Amendment Bill No. 10. One of those arguments was that there was insufficient consultation and that the PF Government did not garner sufficient consensus on constitution amendments,” Mr Mundubile said.
He added that the PF undertook thorough consultative processes which involved all stakeholders in the constitution making process.
He said, there was widespread collection of submissions by the Ministry of Justice, the National Democratic Stakeholder Summit held at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre, meeting of political parties in Siavonga and Introduction of the of National Democratic Bill in Parliament, which was aimed at governing the Constitution amendment process and the National Dialogue Forum.
“To sum it up, the UPND Government should have just waited to amend Part III of the constitution through a referendum to do away with the death penalty because then, the will of the Zambian people would have been expressed through that amendment. As it is now, it is the voice of the minority, maybe a 100 Members of Parliament without sufficient consultation countrywide,” Mr Mundubile said.
Meanwhile, the Centre for Policy Dialogue has commended President Hakainde Hichilema for repealing the Defamation of the President Law.
CPD Executive Director Caroline Katotobwe said President following through with his campaign promise to repeal a law that has limited free speech for so long shows his commitment to freedom of expression and democracy.
“As stakeholders we are elated that this repressive law is finally done away with.Thus, allowing citizens to freely express their views without fear of prosecution as was the case in the past,” Ms Katotobwe said.
She said President Hichilema’s actions give hope that similar retrogressive laws will be repealed and replaced by more progressive laws for the betterment of the people of Zambia.
In a statement announcing the repeal, President Hichilema said during campaigns for the Presidency, he promised to amend all laws that inhibit the growth of democracy and good governance, impede human rights and basic freedoms and today he has delivered.