SEVEN chiefs of Solwezi district in North-Western Province have rejected Article 296 contained in the Draft Constitution. Presenting their concerns to President Edgar Lungu, who is in North Western-Province, the chiefs rejected the clause which allows the Head of State to have all the power over land.
And in his response President Lungu promised that he would not pay a deaf ear to the chiefs concerns. This was after President Lungu held a closed-door meeting with the six royal highnesses in Solwezi on Thursday.
According to special assistant to the President for press and public relation, Amos Chanda, President Lungu promised the chiefs that he would go by the views of the people and respect the consensus.
Mr Chanda said President would respect the views of every Zambian including those of the chiefs in the constitution making process.
“I can confirm that the President has not gone to any part of the country where chiefs have not made a passionate appeal against Article 296. The strongest representation on this matter actually came from the Lamba chiefs when he went to meet them at Levy Mwanawasa stadium. They were very clear that they do not want it,” Mr Chanda said.
He said even the chiefs in Mpika, when President Lungu was opening the Michael Chilufya Sata hospital, demanded to have a side meeting with him and also rejected Article 296.
“I travelled with President Lungu even before he formed Government in Mfuwe. Six chiefs from Malambo came to meet him and they all presented a strong position. So President Lungu as President of the Republic of Zambia is bound to listen to all views,” Mr Chanda said.
He said it was therefore extremely unfair and misguided for people to say that he had unilaterally removed Article 296.
“If such a significant constituency of the Zambian population can so decide to oppose Article 296, he will listen to what the people of Zambia say and that is what he will do. The President understands that the traditional rulers form part of the Zambian population,” he said. Mr Chanda said President Lungu was only responding to the concerns raised by the chiefs that he would not stand against the views of Zambians on the enactment of the Constitution.
“I just wanted to make it very clear that the President is not making any unilateral decisions on the Constitution but respects the views of every single section of the Zambian society even if he may not agree with a certain position, he will listen to the views of the people.’’
Mr Chanda said if the chiefs had rejected Article 296 then Government would be forced to go and look at it again, adding that Government would also like to understand the article which the chiefs were making passionate appeals against. He said Government had not found any chief across the country who had not opposed Article 296 that it was a bad clause.
And the chiefs also expressed concern over the poor state of their palaces.
President Lungu promised the chiefs that he would work with the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs to ensure that there were allocations provided for the rehabilitation of palaces in Solwezi.
The chiefs also talked about the need for the local communities to benefit from the mine resources.
President Lungu said he would engage the mines to ensure that they improved their corporate social responsibility programmes in order to benefit the local people.