Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) President Dr Nevers Sekwila Mumba says that his party reserves the right to press the “Eject” button in the ongoing constitution process in Parliament if there are any manipulations or machinations by the Patriotic Front (PF).
Addressing a press briefing in Kitwe yesterday, Dr Mumba said that important concerns were raised by MMD Nalikwanda MP Honourable Professor Geoffrey Lungwanga on the possibility of the PF mutilating the constitution or diluting it through unauthorized amendments. He said that the MMD would withdraw their support for the constitution amendment bill if there were any manipulations or machinations or if any strange “ghosts” appeared from the PF.
He further said that the MMD as initiators of the process through the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) would not allow the bill to fail but would see it through to the end unlike the United Party for National Development (UPND) whose Members of Parliament took part in the the NCC and collected allowances but abstained from voting in the end. He said that the PF walked out of Parliament before the vote on a similar constitution amendment bill in 2011. He blamed the PF and UPND for the subsequent failure of the constitution process.
Dr Mumba also touched on the crisis on the Copperbelt with job losses of more than 7,000 and said that solving the crisis would be his first assignment once elected into office. He referred to his successful negotiation for an $8 billion investment by Barrick-Gold while he was Canadian High Commissioner which created 4,000 jobs.
Dr Mumba’s full speech is below.
Members of the Media Fraternity; Members of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy; Our Party supporters; Ladies and Gentlemen.
Today, I wish to address a very important issue that has been on the minds of Zambians for the last several days; namely the Constitution making process which culminated in the Constitution Amendment Bill number 16 passing the second reading in Parliament last week Thursday 26th November 2015.
On behalf of the MMD, I wish to clearly explain our position so that the nation is fully aware of the reasons why we supported the bill. I also wish to address some unfounded allegations from some quarters that are mis-representing our stance.
Before I delve into the matter at hand, I firstly wish to congratulate our members of Parliament for helping attain the two-thirds majority vote. The debate has now been opened up so that we can finally make tangible progress in enacting a new people-driven constitution which we have not succeeded to do since 1972 when the first Constitutional Review Commission was set up.
Getting into the matter at hand, I wish to reiterate our position which has been consistent by referring to what two of our honourable Members of Parliament stated on the floor of the house during the debate last week; namely Chembe MP and MMD National Secretary Honourable Mwansa Mbulakulima and Chipata Central MP and MMD Parliamentary Whip Honourable Mutolo Phiri.
In summary, we as the MMD support the piece-meal amendment of the constitution because it is the most practical method with a higher probability of success and is also the least expensive. As Honourable Mbulakulima said in Parliament last week, we would have loved to have the entire document presented for enactment but are constrained by provisions relating to the Bill of Rights which can only be amended by a Referendum.
We are of the opinion that subjecting the entire document to a referendum carries the risk of failure for the entire process if the final document is voted against or if voter turnout does not meet the stipulated legal requirements such as 50% of ELIGIBLE voters participating in the vote. It is said that “a bird in hand is worth two in the bush”. The draft constitution contains several progressive clauses which if enacted shall be a huge positive boost to governance, politics and the economy. These clauses are a must and the following are some of them:
1. 50%+1 electoral system which ensures that we shall have a majority president unlike the current system where a candidate can become president even with 10% of the vote as long as he or she has the highest vote.
2. Presidential Running Mate Clause to prevent a by-election in case the sitting president is no longer able to continue in office. It is important for this bill to clarify explicitly what happens if the Running Mate who was Vice-president also has to leave office while completing the term of his predecessor and the mechanism of selection of the Vice-President in these kinds of scenarios. We have already gone through two costly presidential by-elections in 2008 and 2015 at huge cost. These could have been avoided with the Running Mate Clause in place.
3. Dual Citizenship for Zambians to make it easier for them to invest back home.
4. Strengthening of the Auditor General’s office to effect prosecutions of erring civil servants.
5. Mandatory national Debt contraction through parliament to prevent the current situation where Cabinet can just borrow anyhow and leave future generations in perpetual debt.
6. The Supplementary Appropriation Act to prevent government spending money that has not been pre-approved by parliament.
7. Preventing Parliamentary Defectors from contesting seats for life of that Parliament. This shall eliminate costly unnecessary by-elections.
Colossal sums of money have been spent on Constitutional Review Commissions since 1972 and we are still going round in circles which must stop now. We shall not abrogate our responsibility to defend and speak on behalf of Zambians through MMD elected MPs. NGOs and all other interest groups must learn to respect the opinions of others without resorting to mudslinging and character assassinations. Just because we support the constitution bill does not mean we have been bought by the PF as some NGOs are insinuating.
Important concerns were raised by MMD Nalikwanda MP Honourable Professor Geoffrey Lungwanga on the possibility of the PF mutilating the constitution or diluting it through unauthorized amendments. As stated by our Whip Honourable Phiri, we as MMD shall not tolerate that and we reserve the right to press the “Eject” button. This is another warning to PF that if there are any manipulations or machinations, or if any strange “ghosts” appear from the PF, we shall immediately withdraw our support for the bill. We are only here because of the promise that the constitution shall be enacted with the aforementioned progressive clauses.
I also wish to clarify that despite statements to the contrary, the failure of the last constitution bill in 2011 was due to the PF and UPND who both defeated the bill. The PF by walking out before a vote was taken and the UPND by going to parliament but abstaining from voting. This shall not be allowed to repeat itself and that is why we support the bill. We are only interested in the end result and not pointless debates.
We as MMD were the initiators of this process through the National Constitution Conference (NCC) under late president Levy Mwanawasa and the current document being debated is the product of the NCC. We want to see this whole process through to completion and we shall not abandon it halfway the way the UPND did by collecting allowances from the NCC but abstaining from voting in the end.
How can we reject the process we started by depending on speculations about the intentions of the PF who are merely completing the process we started? We have been consistent on this issue from the beginning including during the Presidential debate just prior to the January 2015 presidential election.
Finally, we are aware that there is much debate remaining before this bill is enacted but we remain confident that reason shall finally prevail and hopefully Zambians will have a document that addresses the most cardinal issues in the governance of the nation.
I thank you,
Dr Nevers Sekwila Mumba