The current constitutional crisis presents opposition parties a rare but tremendous opportunity to unite and work together with civil society in establishing a firm working relationship that will serve the best interests of the country
From what appears to be adversity, a unity of purpose can emerge and result in a process that will give Zambia a constitution that will not only stand the test of time but will put Zambia on a very firm democratic path.
Instead of rushing for 2016 which is untenable under the PF regime, the grand coalition or oasis forum must work towards crafting a document that will meet universal appeal, and pass for the electoral benchmark against which all political parties aspiring for office will be assessed.
It must be obvious by now that a comprehensive constitution is untenable if left to the wishes of those in power with an interest to protect and defend. A people driven constitution should be developed by people whose interest transcends parochial self serving needs of political hegemony and survival.
The current impasse should provide food for thought and an opportunity for the various interest group to take a more reasoned approach that is not pressured by time and political interests of the ruling party.
It is just as well that the process has suffered a setback via misadventure as this will allow room for critical analysis of the entire process without pressure. Experience from the Arab spring has left an indelible lesson that spontaneous revolutions driven more by emotion that cogent and well thought out ideas tend to fizzle out and run out of steam. Egypt and Algeria being typical examples of momentary euphoria has resulted in deep regret and grief.
This where we find ourselves today. Instead of debating the content of the constitutions the debate has been diverted to what is likely to be a sterile discussion on the process, with no end in sight.
Thus far the Patriotic Front has done very well, by provoking the opposition into various reactionary responses including the uncharacteristic display in the National Assembly. Although they had justifiable grounds for the protest chances are that the Government will ensure that the Member so Parliament involved are punished.
This is the nature of politics.
That is why we agree with UPND Chairman of International Relations Mulondwe Muzungu who has called for the opposition to stand united together with civil society to search for a way forward.
Instead of dissipating effort by seeking an accommodation with the Patriotic Front that will not come all the interested parties must focus their energies in developing and popularizing a constitution whose guiding principles will be understood by the people.
A constitution by its very nature is a very complicated document which many people do not fully understand, therefore the role of all the parties in the grand coalition will be to explain and receive feedback from their constituencies in process that must culminate in a PEOPLE’S CONSTITUTION.
There must be deliberate effort to ensure that the Zambian people own the document that will be developed in order to make it count in the 2016 elections.
Our opposition must learn a lesson from Cameroun where fragmentation was guaranteed when opposition parties agreed to attend a trilateral meeting called even when Government refused to meet any of the opposition preconditions.
The opposition has never recovered from the resultant fragmentation which has seen the ruling party triumphant term and after term.
First and foremost all the parties must agree to play by the rules and none should seek to ride on the other because any opportunistic intentions are bound to destroy the purpose of unity.
The truth is that the more disparate the opposition the harder it is to adopt, enforce and preserve a common strategy for the coalition.
The failure by the PF to process a new constitution should be seen as a blessing in disguise.