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“Withdraw the Constitutional Amendment Bill”, Bishops in Zambia Tell MPs

Members of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB).

Bishops in the Southern Africa nation of Zambia have called on the country’s Members of Parliament (MPs) to consider withdrawing the Constitutional Amendment Bill of 2019 also known as Bill 10 from the floor of the House saying it does not reflect the constitutional desires of a majority of the citizens.

“While Bill 10 may contain some progressive clauses, it also contains some retrogressive and highly contentious issues such as the provision for Deputy Ministers, proposed changes in the electoral system regarding mayors, council chairpersons, Members of Parliament and the President, and the proposed revision of the composition of Cabinet,” the Bishops say in their collective statement issued Tuesday, June 9.

The Bishops make their “earnest appeal to the conscience of all Members of Parliament across the political divide to respect the will of the majority of Zambians and immediately withdraw the said Bill 10 from the floor of the House.”

The call to withdraw Bill 10 is “encouraged by the realization of many Zambians, that the said Bill in its current form does not reflect the constitutional desires of the majority of Zambians,” the Bishops explain in their statement signed by the President of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops  (ZCCB), Bishop George Zumaire Lungu.

“We firmly believe that any legitimate process of making, reviewing and amending the supreme law of the land ought to be premised on a process that is widely inclusive, transparent, accountable and anchored on consensus-building rather than partisan interests,” the Bishops add. 

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In their considered view, what has been undertaken with regard to Bill 10 lacks “genuine consensus and has become a source of division in the country.”

“Instead of bringing Zambians together for a common cause, it has further polarized them,” the Bishops lament.

Published in the Government Gazette on June 21, 2019, the controversial Bill, which seeks to amend sections of Zambia’s current Constitution has also drawn criticism from the Commonwealth Lawyers Association who said if enacted, it will turn the country into a dictatorship. 

As a way forward, the Bishops call for dialogue among all stakeholders saying, “The making of a people-driven constitution that would stand the test of time calls for a spirit of dialogue with all stakeholders.”

“This Dialogue involves a courteous discussion with a view to reaching or at least moving closer to a consensus,” ZCCB members say and add, “This requires stakeholders to be open, to be ready to listen and to share positions that will see a better future.”

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Addressing Zambians, the Bishops appeal for “a high level of patriotism and love of neighbor, even when you disagree with their views.”

“We urge the people of Zambia not to lose hope,” they further say and continue, “We genuinely believe the words of our Lord Jesus Christ that those who hunger and thirst for justice will, in the end, be satisfied!”

In conclusion, the Prelates quote the prophet Amos and call on “well-meaning and God-fearing Zambians to pray that the Almighty God, not only blesses this nation but also (lets) justice flow like a river and integrity like an unfailing stream.”