Godfrey Miyanda is continuing his one-man fight to ensure that Zambia ends up with a people-driven Constitution. Miyanda, a veteran politician, president of the opposition Heritage Party, and an ardent political commentator, has just petitioned parliament, opposing President Lungu’s plan “to FINE TUNE or more accurately MANIPULATE our Constitution in a pre-schemed stratagem by selfishly and selectively preventing some of the voices from participating in this national agenda”.
To understand Miyanda’s objections, Zambia Weekly take a closer look at the timeline:
On 18 March 2015, then Justice Minister Ngosa Simbyakula dropped the bombshell that government would not submit the entire Constitution, but only the Bill of Rights, to a referendum, instead enacting the “non-contentious clauses” through parliament. Miyanda objected when appearing in front of the parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs, Governance, Human Rights, Gender Matters and Child Affairs, chaired by UPND MP Cornelius Mweetwa.
On 30 November 2015, Miyanda sought out Mweetwa, requesting him to convey a petition to the speaker of the national assembly, which Mweetwa agreed to do, but Miyanda never received a response.
On 16 December 2015, after President Lungu announced he was ready to assent to the constitutional amendment bills, Miyanda personally delivered a petition to State House – “10 Reasons Why President Lungu Must Read With Eyes Open Before Signing and Assenting to the Constitutional Bills”.
On 23 December 2015, Lungu deferred the assenting, explaining that this was due to Miyanda’s petition.
On 5 January 2016, Lungu assented to the amended Constitution, allegedly without addressing any of Miyanda’s concerns.
On 11 April 2016, Miyanda filed a petition in the Constitutional Court of Zambia, essentially questioning the whole amendment process, including the decision to enact the main parts of the Constitution without a referendum, and to combine the referendum on the Bill of Rights with the general elections on 11 August 2016.
On 13 May 2016, Miyanda filed a certificate of urgency, urging the court to determine his petition before the elections. This did not happen. The petition was heard on 18 August, with ruling reserved to a later date, yet to materialise.
On 14 September 2016, Lungu told newly elected PF MPs to “help fine-tune the amended Constitution”, and he reiterated his directive on 7 October 2016, arguing that “valuable lessons had been learned from the critical period that the country faced following the petitioning of his re-election in the Constitutional Court, and that he had since directed relevant ministries to fine-tune the Constitution”.
On 28 November 2016, Justice Minister Given Lubinda stated that he had written to all ministries, government agencies, and political parties with parliamentary representation for their contribution, basically barring Miyanda.
On 21 February 2017, Miyanda petitioned parliament again, arguing that the Constitution should not be fine-tuned as long as his petition remains active in the Constitutional Court, and that Lubinda’s decree is unconstitutional. “It is irrational and unjustified that I, the concerned Zambian who brought to the president’s attention some of the many lacunae in the amended Constitution, be prohibited from presenting my concerns. I had urged the president to engage me before the assent, as my list in the petition was not exhaustive, but he chose to ignore me, thereby confirming that he was satisfied with the certified bills. How then can he reasonably go back to parliament in barely 12 months to amend the same Constitution that he operationalised?“
Miyanda has also pointed out that the provisions to be “fine-tuned” have not been identified, nor has it been explained how and why they are to be “fine-tuned”.