Constitution Bill goes through

ATTEMPTS by UPND to shoot down the Constitution of Zambia Bill No. 16 of 2015 and the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Bill No. 17 of 2015 at second reading stage in Parliament failed yesterday in full view of the Grand Coalition on people-driven Constitution after two-third majority of the Members of Parliament voted in favour of the Bill.

The two Bills were yesterday taken to the House for the second reading after the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs subjected it to public scrutiny.

The executive managed to secure 106 votes from Members of Parliament, representing 72.6 percent while those against were 36, representing 24.66 percent vote – with four MPs absent.

And the second Bill received 109 votes while 35 were against with two absent.

Presenting his preamble of a report to the House earlier, committee chairman Cornelius Mweetwa suggested that the two Bills be withdrawn but did not give reasons.

But Justice Minister Ngosa Symbyakula rejected the recommendation of the committee to have the two Bills withdrawn and insisted that MPs should support the Bills.

Dr Symbyakula said Government considered financial challenges which the country was going through when it decided to take the piece meal approach to enacting the document.

“Mr Speaker, we decided to bring to this House non-contentious issues because the referendum was costly. I have the outmost confidence that members of this House support the Bill,” he said.

Dr Symbyakula said he differed with the recommendation of the committee that the Bill be withdrawn but the process should continue.

He urged all Members of Parliament to support the Bill, adding that it was the only way they would put the interest of their representatives forward.

Meanwhile, MMD chief whip Mutolo Phiri said all MMD members had agreed to support the Constitution Amendment Bill because they did not want what happened during their time to repeat itself.

Mr Phiri said shooting down the process was not the right way to go and warned that the opposition were the ones who would be blamed if the Constitution failed this time around.

He appealed to all opposition MPs to support the process which the Patriotic Front had suggested before the floor of the House.

“It will be important for us to discuss each Bill so that we understand what is contained in the draft and give each other advice,” Mr Phiri said.

And Patriotic Front’s Gabriel Namulambe said there was need for all Members of Parliament to freely express themselves.

Mr Namulambe, who supported the two Bills, said he had learnt a lesson when he was in Government how it felt to shoot down a Constitution in Parliament and equally warned the opposition political parties not to take such a step as it was dangerous and a waste of resources.

“I don’t mind the people who did not show up during the submissions and not everything is lost; we need to support this process,” Mr Namulambe said.