PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has vowed that he will protect the tenets of democracy and will endeavour to have the controversial Article 296 removed from the Draft Constitution because it had been rejected by the traditional leadership.
President Lungu said he would be willing to have the new Constitution enacted through a referendum if that was the desire of Zambians but warned that such desires were not economically realistic although some politicians were making political capital out of the process.
The Head of State said this when he addressed about 25 traditional leaders from Southern Province at State House yesterday.
The Head of State said he had listened to the traditional leadership and had heard their concerns and as a leader who had vowed to protect democracy, he was going to go by the demands of the chiefs because his desire was to ensure that coexistence was promoted.
President Lungu said he had spoken about the Constitution many times and did not want to continue getting involved in the debate to allow Zambians discuss the matter so that he could not be accused of frustrating the constitution-making process.
He said he would give Zambians whatever they wanted but added that it was dangerous to let Zambians do whatever they wanted and go wherever they desired and conduct their political acts without the State knowing what they were doing.
President Lungu stated that he was ready to agree with the demands Zambians were making even if he did not agree with some of their views.
“We found clause 296 and we did not put it in the Constitution ourselves. When I became Justice Minister, I released the documents and I made sure each of their royal highnesses received a copy of the draft Constitution and the instructions were that you read it and find out what was wrong and do not agree with. You have told us that you do not like article 296 and we hear you but the most important thing is to have consensus. So I will the decision that you make because I have vowed to protect democracy and this includes the views that I do not support. So article 296 is out, that is what the chiefs are saying and what more can I say?” President Lungu said.
The Head of State explained that he had consulted the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) if Zambia had the capacity to hold two elections within 60 days and he was advised that it was not a realistic undertaking.
The Head of State told the traditional leaders that he had consulted the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice if it the country had the capacity to have a referendum and he was also advised that while the desire was politically enticing, it was financially not realistic.
“If Zambians want referendum, I will have no choice but to give it to them…but at what cost. But the majority wins and if the majority wants a referendum, we will put all our money there and starve. I will say let us eat the Constitution but the truth is that we need to balance and move forward. We sat as cabinet and agreed that the 50+1 percent can be given immediately where a winner should have more than 50 percent of the vote,” President Lungu said.
The President said he had learned a lot of lessons in the three years the PF had been in power and was working at refining the process of creating new districts and was not going to repeat the mistakes that were made in the past.
He said by breaking and creating new districts, Government was creating disharmony in chiefdoms as well as creating boundary disputes in the districts.
He said the PF and other political parties had agreed and approved the delimitation of new Constituencies and had asked the ECZ to harmonise the Constitution by having the six constituencies but that Parliament would have to decide when it reconvenes this month.
“I am quiet conscious about the creation of new boundaries because of the administrative challenges they create,” President Lungu said.