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The Times of Zambia (Ndola)
Posted to the web 10 December 2007

THE United Party for National Development (UPND) has decided to attend the National Constitution Conference (NCC) and fight for a better Republican Constitution within the conference.

UPND President Hakainde Hichilema said in Lusaka yesterday although the party was not happy about the Government’s refusal to amend the NCC Act and address various concerns, it decided to attend the NCC in the interest of the nation.

Speaking during a Press briefing at the UPND secretariat, Mr Hichilema said the UPND National Management Committee (NMC) resolved that the party should continue fighting the battle of the Constitution within the NCC, the referendum and finally in Parliament.

“At the level reached in the Constitution making process, our party’s NMC which met on Friday December 7, 2007 decided to carry the fight into NCC.“As a party, the UPND will continue to act as a whistle blower in the Constitution making process and fight any machinations to make a bad Constitution for the people of Zambia,” he said.

Mr Hichilema said when the NCC Bill went to Parliament, UPND moved amendments to take into account stakeholders’ concerns.He said the concerns were, among other things, the need to increase the composition of the NCC and include those who decided to stay away.

“In our attempt to achieve amicable resolution of outstanding issues which many stakeholders felt were not addressed in the NCC Act, we also held meetings with the Ministers of Justice, Information and Lands. “Subsequently we wrote letters to the Head of state dated October 9 2007 and a reminder dated November 18 both of which were not responded to,” he said.

Mr Hichilema said the UPND members of Parliament (MPs) and councillors would fight for the interests of the Zambian people.He said the UPND had been consistent on the Constitution making process and that it wanted a Constitution that would stand the taste of time.

Mr Hichilema said at the NCC, the party would fight among many other things, that the republican president should be elected by 50 per cent plus one of the valid votes.The election date, Mr Hichilema said, should be enshrined in the Constitution and that the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) should be independent.

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He said stakeholders such as the Church and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) should be represented on the ECZ, as was the case in South Africa and Mozambique.

“The Chief Justice should not be the returning officer for the presidential elections, but the chairperson of the independent electoral commission,” he said.

The UPND also recommended that there should be a mixed proportional representation system of elections to Parliament.

Mr Hichilema said MPs defecting to other political parties and creating unnecessary by-elections should not be allowed to re-contest their seats for the remaining life of that Parliament.

Chief Government spokesperson Mike Mulongoti welcomed the decision by the UPND.Mr Mulongoti said, however, it was sad that the UPND had taken a confrontational stance on the NCC by saying that it would give the MMD a good run in the Constitution making process.

“For us as Government we welcome the participation. The spirit should be for people to go to the conference. It is about making a law and the MMD is going there just like any other party,” he said.