Constitution Quagmire

The hiatus between the government and Technical Committee over the constitution making process is most disconcerting more so that the Ministry of Justice decided to make it a public rather than internal matter.

Between the government and the Committee the most immediate casualty will be the Constitution and indeed the constitution making process which has been under severe attack from the very beginning because of the lack of transparency.

There is no question the technical committee had very good and cogent reasons for wanting to extend the period by six months. At the same time it is understandable that the government may not have the funds to pay for the extension.

Ultimately however, something must give and it is our hope that the two sides can come together and salvage the process so that the billions of kwacha that have already been spent on this exercise do not become an investment in futility.

This experience however, is most salutary as it graphically and most poignantly confirms the concerns of men and women who have argued that the constitution making process should have been buttressed by a clear road map safely guarded by legislation.

Such provisions would have guarded both the process and content of the constitution.

Going by the technical committee the draft could not have been ready for another six months and going by the government spokesman the draft should be ready before the end of this month.  Chances are that the Committee may indeed be stampeded into rushing the draft but at what cost.

We entirely agree with State Counsel John Sangwa who has called for dialogue and compromise between the two so that a meaningful draft can be produced, which draft should then be subject to a referendum.

The Committee has been helped in its work by the Consortium of civil society which has clearly set out the parameters and concerns, desires and aspirations of the Zambian people who want a constitution that will truly stand the test of time.

From the many pronouncements by the leadership it is obvious that a number of contentious issues are still under debate and may not be included in the final draft.  This will be totally unfortunate as it will mark a betrayal of the confidence and trust that the people of Zambia have placed in their leadership.

There are such aspects as 50 percent plus 1 (50+1) which the Minister of Justice Wynter Kabimba has already voiced his opposition to.  This is an important clause which must be included in the final draft because of the danger that minority governments may continue to preside over affairs of state to the detriment of the majority.

There are many other provisions of the constitution on which civil society would appear to differ with the government hence the need for an orderly conclusion to the constitution process so that all issues of contention are not stampeded in a rush at the last moment because anyone side wants to gain advantage over the others. 

Our hope and prayer is that sanity would prevail and that all interested parties including PF, church and civil society and more importantly all the people of Zambia are engaged in the process of creating a constitution that will be driven by the people themselves.