Constitution amendment

THERE is certainly need to amend the ambiguous and conflicting provisions in the Republican Constitution in order to ensure consistency and clarity. Amending the Constitution is a matter of necessity not only so that its provisions are well understood but also to avoid a repeat of what transpired before and after the August polls. Take for instance the uncertainty that surrounded the interpretation of Article 70 (1) (d) on the preliquisite qualification for one to be elected as Member of Parliament. The hullabaloo on the correct interpretation of the minimum academic qualification, Grade 12 certificate or its equivalent, was so ambiguous that some individuals were deprived of the opportunity to vie for such political office. This provision is couched in the language that left a wide spectrum of qualifications, hence not clearly understood. It is ironical to imagine that an individual who has a college or university qualification could not be eligible for election as Member of Parliament. What is so shocking is that both the Electoral Commission of Zambia and the Examination Council of Zambia appear to have gotten the interpretation of this constitutional provision wrong. It took a fearless woman Sibongile Zulu who had the intention to stand for political office possessing GCE qualification and a diploma from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supplies (CIPS) to challenge the electoral body in the Kabwe High Court which provided the correct interpretation. The provisions surrounding Presidential election petition under Articles 103 and 104 need to be succinctly clear. Issues such as the circumstances under which the President should hand over executive powers to the Speaker of the National Assembly to act due to a pending Presidential election petition must be settled once and for all. The Constitution must come out clearly on such issues to avoid plunging Zambia into a constitutional crisis which directly threatens national security. To have the nation kept in suspense for two weeks after the declaration of the winner of a general election by the electoral body legally mandated to do so is totally unacceptable. The 14-day period within which a Presidential petition may be filed with the Constitutional Court and the seven-day wait after its disposal poses a recipe for anarchy. The contradictions noted with regard to the continued stay of Cabinet ministers after dissolution of Parliament must be clarified too. In this vein, we support the recommendation expressed by the European Union Election Observation Mission to Government to redraft unclear, ambiguous and conflicting provisions to ensure legal certainty. And we think that the passing of a Bill in Parliament on Wednesday to amend portions of constitutional provisions need the support of all well-meaning and patriotic Zambians to ensure a thorough job is done as soon as possible. We are certain that the preceding constitution-making processes have provided a strong base and experience on how to proceed on the matter and hope that the process will not be politicised. Therefore, we call upon the Members of Parliament to put their political interests aside as they debate on the constitution provisions that need amendment. They need to show the same kind of unity of purpose as exhibited when they unanimously ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in Parliament yesterday.