Thursday, August 16, 2007
By Noel Sichalwe
Thursday August 16, 2007 [04:00]
THE Oasis Forum has called for the resignation of justice minister George Kunda for allegedly failing to advise President Mwanawasa adequately on the constitution-making process. The Oasis Forum has also demanded the withdrawal of the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) Bill from Parliament in order to allow further consultations before it is passed into law.
Addressing the press yesterday, Oasis Forum convener Reverend Suzanne Matale said should Kunda refuse to resign, President Mwanawasa should relieve him of his duties immediately. Rev Matale said the current constitutional tension Zambia was experiencing was enough evidence that Kunda had failed to advise President Mwanawasa adequately on the matter.
"We therefore demand for the immediate resignation of honourable George Kunda," Rev Matale said.
"Honourable Kunda has in fact been a major stumbling block in the process of constitution-making. Our hope is that his removal will precipitate a breath of fresh air in this constitution making process. We therefore call upon all Zambians to demand the resignation of the Minister of Justice and to call him to account for his conduct in this process."
"Should we not receive favourable response from the President to our demands then we will be compelled to reconsider our position in the constitution making process with a view to withdrawing from further engagement with the government in this process and shall consider commencing a parallel process of interfacing with the people at grass roots level."
Rev Matale further said from the way the government was bull dozing the NCC bill, it was apparent that it would be passed into law before the current session of Parliament adjourns sine die.
She said the NCC bill which has been formulated on the basis of the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue (ZCID) road map, advocated piece meal amendments of the constitution and reserved the right of Parliament to debate and amend the recommendations of the constitution conference.
Rev Matale said the NCC Bill was retrogressive by limiting the entire constitution conference to merely making recommendations to the Minister of Justice.
"We want to put it on record today that we oppose the National Constitutional Conference bill and if no major adjustments to it are made, we demand that this Bill be withdrawn from Parliament immediately," Rev Matale said. "We cannot surely have such an important process being left to the whim of the Minister of Justice and the President to the extent that the bill grants the President carte blanche powers to dissolve the constitutional conference."
She said the constitution should be adopted through a broadly representative body followed by a referendum with enactment by Parliament. She called on all Zambians to continue campaigning for a constitution that would stand the test of time. Rev Matale said the composition of the constitutional conference was highly slanted towards government or those sympathising with its position on the constitution.
She also noted that the NGO bill, which has been deferred, was highly undemocratic and tyrannical because it was introduced in Parliament without much consultation. Rev Matale said the NGO bill had the capacity to trigger a mass pull out of progressive NGOs and as a potent weapon for government to check those speaking strongly on governance issues.
She further said it was sad that SADC did not have a platform for non-state actors to air their grievances. She said this was retrogressive and had the capacity to encourage impunity of the leaders of member states. Rev Matale said SADC should discuss obstacles being faced in Zambia's constitution-making process and encourage President Mwanawasa to show leadership and humility.
She hoped that President Mwanawasa would reconsider his position on the constitution now that he was taking the chairmanship of SADC.
Rev Matale further condemned the worsening human rights situation in Zimbabwe and opposed the repression of the church, media and opposition politicians.
"We have decided to very clearly state our position on the Zimbabwean question because we know that repression in Zimbabwe today is potential repression in Zambia tomorrow," said Rev Matale.