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Government dragged to court for failing to respect constitutional provisions on women, youth representation

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Government dragged to court for failing to respect constitutional provisions on women, youth representation

The Zambian Government has told the public that Bill 10 will increase the representation of women, youth, and disabled persons in government.

Today Chapter One Foundation together with NGOCC and Young Women in Action filed in a Petition to challenge the Government’s failure to implement existing constitutional provisions that will increase gender parity and the representation of youth and disabled people through ministerial appointments.

Below is our statement on the same:

JOINT PRESS STATEMENT BY THE NON-GOVERNMENTAL GENDER ORGANISATION COORDINATING COUNCIL (NGOCC), CHAPTER ONE FOUNDATION AND YOUNG WOMEN IN ACTION AT NGOCC SECRETARIAT, LUSAKA 10TH SEPTEMBER 2020

Leaders of various Civil Society Organisations Presents, Members of the Press, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

We have called this Press Conference to announce an important milestone in our collective resolve and advocacy for a more inclusive Governance system of the country and indeed society. The importance of equity and equality in the democratic governance of the country cannot be overemphasized. Everyone has the right to take part in the government and public affairs of the country, to vote and to be elected. Beyond elective office, every citizen regardless of any other consideration has the right to participate in the governance at different levels. Government dragged to court for failing to respect constitutional provisions on women, youth representation

However, over the years’ women, people with disabilities and indeed the youths have been systematically discriminated against participating in the governance of their country. This is despite the fact that both women and the youths constitute the majority of the country’s population.

It is against this background that we the aforementioned organisations have today, Thursday 10th September 2020, lodged a Petition in the Constitutional Court to among other seek the Court’s intervention in redressing the historical and structural discrimination of these marginalized groups.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Petition before the Constitutional Court is in accordance with Article 2 of the Republican Constitution which provides that “Every person has the right and duty to; (a) defend this Constitution; and (b) resist or prevent a person from overthrowing, suspending or illegally abrogating this Constitution.”

As you may be aware the constitution clearly provides for the need for the inclusion of all in the governance of our country. The constitution provides for the inclusion of women, youths and the disabled in all the governance spheres. However, the practice in the recent years since independence in 1964 has been such that the Executive specifically the successive and current Head of State have ignored these very important Constitutional provisions in their appointments and nomination. The Constitution in Article 173 (1) (j) and (K) which reads, in part:
“(1) The guiding values and principles of the public service include the following—
(j) adequate and equal opportunities for appointments, of members of both gender…;
(k) representation of persons with disabilities in the composition of the public service at all levels.”
Further, Article 259 (1) of the Constitution provides:
“Where a person is empowered to make a nomination or an appointment to a public office, that person shall ensure—

(b) that fifty percent of each gender is nominated or appointed from the total available positions, unless it is not practicable to do so; and (c)Equitable representation of the youth and persons with disabilities, where these qualify for nomination or appointment.”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As evidenced in the appointment of Cabinet and the nominated Members of parliament, the Executive have continually ignored these provisions and thus continuing to exclude a critical part of the population from both participating and benefiting from the various development processes of the country.
As stated the organisations are therefore seeking specific orders from the Courts to ensure that the youths, women and indeed people with disabilities are included in the governance of the country.
Some of the prayers we seek are we seek include;
1. The Court to make a declaration that in nominating Members of Parliament and making the ministerial appointments relative to the current Provincial Ministers and the Cabinet, the President did not adopt a procedure which ensured:
(a) gender parity in the nomination and appointment of the Provincial and Cabinet Ministers contemplated, and in contravention of Article 259 (1) (b) of the Constitution; and
(b) equitable representation of youth and persons with disabilities in the nomination and appointment of Provincial and Cabinet Ministers as contemplated in, and in contravention of Article 259 (1) (c) of the Constitution.
2. The court make a declaration that the nomination of the Members of Parliament by the President in the fashion he did is unconstitutional.
3. The court make a declaration that the current composition of Cabinet and the Provincial Ministers is unconstitutional.
4. The Court to order for the remedying of the unconstitutional appointment within 90 days.
The full Petition as filed can be obtained from the Constitutional Court Registry.

Conclusion

In the last few months the proponents of Bill 10, specifically Government have been misleading citizens that the Bill will ensure the equitable representation of women, youths and disabled persons when in fact the same Government has failed to implement the current Constitutional provisions as provided in our laws as we are demonstrating in the Petition. It is therefore our fervent hope that the Constitutional Courts will help in redressing the long-standing injustice and exclusion of citizens from participating in the governance of the country.

We the undersigned;

CHAPTER ONE FOUNDATION LIMITED
THE NON-GOVERNMENTAL GENDER ORGANISATIONS’
COORDINATING COUNCIL FOR GENDER AND
DEVELOPMENT REGISTERED TRUSTEES
YOUNG WOMEN IN ACTION