It is quite understandable that Zambia civil society groups are dismayed by the delayed release of the draft constitution and have subsequently demanded for sincerity and commitment to the remaining process to ensure that a people driven constitution is enacted.
Their concern is understandable considering that to date there has been no tangible road map on how the constitution will be achieved and government has made no effort to work with civil society on this matter.
Of particular concern is governments silence on the issue of the referendum which civil society has indicated as an imperative and the best mode of adopting the constitution. That is why they intend to launch a national publicity campaign on the issue and have demanded that resources should be allocated in the 2014 budget for the exercise.
So far only belligerent and confrontational statements have been made to assert the right of government to enact a constitution through parliament after approval by the president and subsequently cabinet.
This is not exactly what civil society has approved.
The government has made no effort whatsoever to address the issue of the referendum as demanded by most of the actors and interested parties. This silence has led to suspicion and a worry that government intends to bypass the consultative process to inaugurate a constitution that is not people driven but is instead a PF document.
This group representing up to 260 member organizations from all the ten provinces feels that a more inclusive process should be implemented if value for the K100 billion spend thus far is to be attained. And the most urgent requirement is a roadmap for the remaining stages which include publication of the final draft, appointment of referendum commissioners, initiation of a national civic education campaign and most importantly a commitment to specific benchmarks.
In this regard the consortium has now produced basic minimum principles which should guide the process all of which are guided through protected civil, community and individual rights to ensure that the rights of individuals are not only covered but promulgated in such a manner that the fundamental rights enjoyed by the citizens will be more clearly articulated with a greater clarity in detail to remove any ambiguity.
It is equally understandable that civil society believes passionately the work on the draft constitution would have been finalized by now had government premised the task on a clear and well thought out roadmap. We however doubt that their deadline of September 30 for the draft will be achieved. But rather we would wish that dialogue between the government and the society was initiated to reach common ground for the establishment of some kind of road map, even at this late hour.