The decision by the Technical Committee Drafting the Zambia’s Constitution to summarily refer their final draft to the President without recourse to public comment and input fully justifies the worries and concerns that Zambians had expressed about the process.
We totally agree with FODEP executive director, Macdonald Chipenzi’s assertion that the technical committee has a duty and responsibility to the people of Zambia in ensuring that a people-driven Constitution is enacted.
It was this concern that drove civil society to demand a roadmap and a fully-legislated process to ensure that the contents of the new constitution are fully protected and that the wishes and concerns of the people and would be reflected to ensure the constitution stood the test of time. In the absence of such guarantees, the future of the new constitution is precarious.
There is no telling what changes, modifications or indeed omissions and additions will be made to take away from the various submissions by the people.
It is equally true that serious suspicion has now been planted and enhanced among the civil society which has always held the fear that the government was not serious about enacting a people-driven constitution and it was for this reason that resource barriers have been stuck against the general wishes of the technical committee that would have wanted for a more inclusive process that had adequate time and resources to secure broad consultation with the Zambian people before arriving at a final draft that would also have been subjected to a referendum.
As the situation stands, the entire process now depends on the goodwill of the President and those who have refused to provide more resources for the process to be concluded to the satisfaction of all parties involved.
This should never happen in a democracy where all important decisions, especially those concerning a vital document such as the constitution, must be passed by a majority consensus.
Those who frame this constitution, and those who should have provided the withal for it, will have failed the Zambian people lamentably if nothing is done even at this very late hour to salvage the process and let the people decide on a people-driven constitution that will equally be subjected to a referendum. Short of this effort, the PF legacy will be sullied permanently.
The assurance by the Patriotic Front legal committee chairman Edgar Lungu that the people’s wishes will not be betrayed is welcome but holds little value because indications from the beginning showed a lack of willingness to listen to the Zambian people.
This, unfortunately, seems to be the hallmark of the PF; the failure to listen to divergent views and always wishing to promote its own cause at the expense of consensus building.
The PF must learn from other experiences including the success of the Kenyan constitution-making process which has now resulted in a robust document under which their recent elections were held. Without a sufficiently strong constitution, Kenya would not have withstood the shocks of controversy that rocked the country after recent elections.
The Kenyan people trusted the outcome presented by their Judiciary amid electoral disagreements all because they had consensus on the sanctity and place of the Judiciary in the political life of the nation.
In our context, such confidence in the Judiciary is lacking and only a sufficiently robust and stable constitution will create a judiciary in which the Zambian people can repose their trust.