CSOs support opposition MPs ‘demos’ in Parliament

Parliamentarians have been hailed and applauded for taking the demands for a new constitution to the National Assembly as a way of pushing government to release the draft and affirm a clear roadmap.

And Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has expressed willingness to assist government ensure the referendum was held in a manner required by law and the mobilization and sensitization of the people about the current constitution making process.

Reacting to the action by the opposition Members of Parliament on Wednesday to disrupt business of the House to demand for the constitution, CSOs said that was a symbol of nationalist patriotism and representation of the people’s needs over the new constitution.

In a joint statement yesterday, the CSOs as the ‘Civil Society Constitution Coalition’ explained that Zambians have been looking forward to their MPs taking lead in such demonstrations as exhibited in parliament on Wednesday.

The CSOs said the action that prompted the premature adjournment of parliamentary business on was a mark of people’s needs and demands on their government.

“We would like to applaud and commend the Members of Parliament for their boldness and bravery shown yesterday in calling for the government to release the final Draft Constitution and engage in a transparent process of enacting the new Republican Constitution that will reflect the aspirations of Zambians,” they said.

They said Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba’s statement in Parliament did not respond to the demands from the majority Zambians on government’s position on the release of the draft constitution or indication of a suggested roadmap in the process.

“We find the statement by the Minister of Justice to lack any substance but the usual rhetoric except for revealing that he refused to accept the final draft constitution when the Technical Committee attempted to hand it over to him.

The reasons he advanced in parliament were clearly imaginary and seeking to apportion blame on the technical committee regarding why the final draft Constitution has not been made public to date,” they stated. The nation was fully aware of the many attempts by the Technical Committee to handover the document to the President and that all efforts failed due to the government’s averseness to transparency.

They said as CSOs, they found the MPs’ decision selfless and in furtherance of people’s aspirations of having a constitution which would provide for their wellbeing.

They explained that they were ready to help the government in ensuring that the referendum was held in a manner required by the law and that citizens be sensitized on what was expected and mobilized to vote on the referendum Day.

“They have listed their demands among them: The government must officially release the final draft constitution and the report to Zambian so that Zambians can study them and decide on the form of support they will render to the next processes;’

‘Government should communicate to the citizens a clear and timely roadmap on the constitution making process so that Zambians can have a new constitution before the 2016 general elections;’And ‘Appoint a Referendum Commission and begin the process of holding a Referendum to vote on the new constitution.’” The statement read. The CSOs include the three Church Mother Bodies (Christian Council of Zambia, Zambia Episcopal Conference, Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflections (JCTR), Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), and the Non-Governmental Organisation Coordinating Council –NGOCC and Zambia Civic Education Association – ZCEA among others.

And JCTR national coordinator Father Leonard Chiti has advised the Patriotic Front government to stop making fun of the constitution making process but should acknowledge its importance and avoid comical comments over the procedures.

Father Chiti said it was unacceptable that President Michael Sata should make comical statements with reference to the ‘animal drive constitution’.

“Why does government say one thing in Parliament and then the President makes it a joke at swearing in ceremonies? The government should stop taking the constitution as a joke, but should instead give due respect and recognition of its importance,” he said.

He said PF should be careful with their approach in addressing issues of the constitution because the people were now aware of their tactics to trick them of the document.

He said people have become more aware of their rights and especially with such results as in the recent Katuba Constituency by-elections scooped by the opposition UPND, it was clear that the ruling party was falling out of favour of the people.

“As the famous saying says, ‘you can foo some people sometimes, but you cannot fool all the people all the time’. What happened in Katuba is emblemic example of the PF state,” he said. Many people have genuine and reasonable expectations on the constitution and that this was not the time to fail them by engaging in self-preservation tactics which may not even guarantee their continued stay in power.