19 January 2013

Zambia: Retain Media Freedom Article - Delegates

DELEGATES at the Muchinga provincial Constitution-making convention yesterday unanimously retained Article 38 of the first draft Constitution on Freedom of the Media.

Debating the Article, the delegates said the media should be allowed to operate without unnecessary restrictions for it to be accountable to the public it was created to serve.

A delegate and Isoka Member of Parliament, Malozo Sichone said it was not the intention of the Government to control the media but that the media should be regulated.

Kebby Malila said the rights of the media to operate without being regulated by another organisation or Government was not negotiable and voted for Article 38 to be retained as contained in the first Draft Constitution.

Abel Shawa said the media had been agitating for self-regulation like the Law Association of Zambia and should be allowed to legally regulate itself.

Three working groups out of 10 had presented their resolutions for consolidation of the Draft Constitution with more than 35 Articles retained by Press time yesterday.

The delegates also retained all Articles relating to citizenship in the first Draft Constitution with minor amendments.

Meanwhile, Home Affairs Deputy Minister Stephen Kampyongo informed the delegates that the Public Order Act was a progressive law that helped society to deal with internal security tension.

And the Luapula Province Constitution Convention has adopted the death penalty clause contained in Article 28 of the Draft Constitution.

The delegates upheld the clause amid opposition from the clergy that the clause should not stand because Zambia was a Christian Nation.

Clause three of Article 28 states that a person may be deprived of life if that person was convicted of a capital offence and sentenced to death.

Father Anthony Mafumbi of the Roman Catholic Church said he was not in favour of the death penalty as taking away life made the enforcers of this law equal to the convict.

Pastor Maxwell Luchile of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia said the value of life could not be compared to anything and that he strongly believed that people were sent to prison to reform.

And tensions were high in Luapula Province when in the first round of voting on the 50 per cent plus one clause the delegates voted that the clause be retained as it was contained in the Draft Constitution.

It was at this point that Chifunabuli PF Member of Parliament (MP) Mutaba Mwali called for further debate on the clause to ensure that the delegates understood what they were voting for.

"It would have been of benefit to everyone to listen to both sides because it is an important piece of legislation," he said.

Chairperson of the convention, Katele Kalumba agreed to the suggestion which paved the way for an open-ended debate that lasted close to an hour.

Those against the clause who included all the Patriotic Front (PF) MP said the electoral system was a waste of resources as the current system was sufficient.

And debate over the rotation of the presidency between Northern Rhodesia and Barotseland attracted reactions from two senior citizens, with one of them expressing his anger against a point of order.

Delegates at the on-going Western Province Convention unanimously resolved that the 50 per cent plus one electoral system be maintained as was the case in the Draft Constitution.

Among the resolutions passed was that of rejecting the resolution at the district consultative forum by Kalabo delegates that Article 97 should include a clause providing that a Presidential candidate be rotated on unitary grounds, considering that unitary implied Barotseland joined with Northern Rhodesia.

Convention chairperson Bernard Silumesi called for a vote following the debate which resulted in those against the rotation of the Presidency emerging victorious after they got 57 votes against 33 (including the two senior citizens') votes.

The proportional representation system as a basis for electing members to the National Assembly was yesterday rejected by the Northern Province Constitution Convention.

The delegates, however, decided to retain the 50 per cent plus one clause on election to the office of the President.

Under Article 75 (1) of the first Draft Constitution, the convention was unanimous in its decision that elections of the President be conducted on a majoritarian system where a winning candidate had to garner not less than 50 per cent plus one vote of valid votes.

Article 75 (2) of the first Draft Constitution on proportional representation was subjected to a vote in which the majority voted against.

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