Transparent constitution

The mode of adoption of the constitution is the nettle that continues to overshadow the entire constitution making process and unfortunately statements by the Minister of Justice Wynter Kabimba on the matter gives cold comfort to those insisting on a clear road map that ends with a national referendum.

Like other Zambians we are concerned that a document that took colossal amount of money, culminating in a national convention should end in a damp squib that fails to satisfy expectations.

It is frustrating that an attempt by the more than 500 delegates to convention to give a frame work to their work by proposing a 12 months road map was quickly rubbished.

Wynter accused the convention of overreaching their terms of reference which circumscribed them to producing a document and not determining how the ultimate constitution should be adopted, a matter which he said, was to be left to the President.

When civil society expressed  loud dissent to this procedure, Wynter sought to limit the damage by suggesting that those having reservations on whether or not the ruling party will respect the wishes of the Zambian people on the constitution should write to the government as opposed to making public statements in the media.

This is very strange reasoning because the entire constitution making process has been an open and seemingly transparent process in which Zambians have shared ideas through the media. Indeed the media in Zambia plays the very critical role of informing and educating the Zambian people. The very success of the PF in the elections can be attributed to the propaganda it enjoyed from the media.

To suggest at this late hour that any further views on the constitution should now be conducted in secret, between individuals and mandarins in the Government system is certainly disingenuous and not in keeping with the spirit of creating for ourselves a document that has the widest possible  reach, It also seems to be an odd way of proceeding, given the hype and hyperbole about transparency and evenness in the process indeed this process plants a seed of distrust as it would appear aimed at driving the process underground, beyond the reach of the Zambian people who  expect to be the ultimate beneficiaries.

One point must be made clear; the new constitution does not belong to the Patriotic Front. It belongs to the people of this country regardless of their political affiliation. Zambians do not want a partisan document, they want a constitution that will stand the test of time.

It is not a question of whether or not Zambians trust the Patriotic Front; it is about maintaining the integrity, wishes and aspirations of the Zambian people intact a document that will be adopted in an equally transparent manner.

The PF and its Secretary General in particular must appreciate that the 2011 electoral victory was not a licence to ride roughshod over the Zambian people. Power is held in trust for the Zambian people. In particular it must also be noted that more people voted for other parties than PF. except for the principle of one past the post that ensures that even a minority party can assume power by sheer dint of proportion.

As the ultimate law of the land the Republican Constitution must give full expression to the articulated wishes of the people, hence the worry that unless the process of adoption is transparent there is a real danger that the final document may be manipulated.

Zambians have every reason to worry because other inquiries and commission have suffered similar fate.

The outcome of commissions instituted at great expense have never seen the light of day, hence the concern that the constitution must be dealt with in a more definitive manner agreed upon by all