The Grand Coalition on the Constitution has announced that it will not be part of the constitution summit which is being organised by Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) to discuss the release of the final draft constitution.
Grand Coalition Chairperson Fr Leonard Chiti confirmed the development stating that the grand coalition would not attend the summit because of the insincerity on the part of the government which has frustrated the constitution making process.
Fr Chiti said the procrastination in the constitution making process by government had eroded stakeholder’s confidence and trust.
“We believe it is not the right time for SACCORD to call for a summit on the constitution because the second draft has not been availed to anyone,” Fr Chiti explained.
Fr Chiti said the Grand Coalition had a meeting with SACCORD last week and advised the organisation not to go ahead with the indaba because it was not the right time.
“We have not been told where the copy of the second draft is and ministers and the top leadership in the PF government have been giving conflicting statements on this matter,” Fr Chiti said.
He said the conflicting statements which the ministers were issuing on the constitution making process did not encourage the Grand Coalition to be part of the summit being organised by SACCORD.
Fr Chiti also disclosed that it was the Grand Coalition which advised opposition political parties not to attend the summit which falls tomorrow.
“We had a meeting with the UPND president Mr Hakainde Hichilema and other political parties who are party of the Grand Coalition and we advised them not to attend the summit,” Fr Chiti said.
And Grand Coalition spokesperson McDonald Chipenzi said after receiving an invitation, the coalition had observed a number of concerns which were quickly raised with the conveners of the summit with the view of resolving concerns.
“In March this year, Minister of Justice Wynter Kabimba stated in Parliament that the Technical Committee Drafting the new constitution had finished its work and were ready to hand over the 10 copies requested by the President,” Mr Chipenzi said.
He said Mr Kabimba had been giving a lot of conflicting statements which has made the Grand Coalition not to trust the planned Summit.
Mr Chipenzi, however said the idea of holding a Constitutional Summit was good, but the unwillingness by the government to genuinely engage key stakeholders and its failure to release the final draft constitution to the people made the summit ill-conceived and misplaced.
Mr Chipenzi reiterated that the Coalition’s firm belief was that genuine dialogue and debate on the constitution would only be attained once the final draft constitution was released adding that anything else before the release of the draft was but just and academic exercise.
“The position of the Grand Coalition is that it will not participate or be represented at the proposed constitution Summit tomorrow,” Mr Chipenzi said.
He said the decision was purely made out of principle and not malice or hatred of any person.
But SACCORD executive director Boniface Chembe said it was unfortunate that opposition political parties and the Grand Coalition were planning to shun the summit.
“Obviously opposition political parties are very important in this process and the fact that they are not attending the meeting is very unfortunate,” Mr Chembe said.
He said the indaba which SACCORD has been calling for was a natural democratic process which also happens across the world.
“We can not force the opposition political parties to attend the indaba on the constitution because in a democratic dispensation everyone has the right to attend a meeting which they want,” he said.
Mr Chembe further said SACCORD had received over 40 confirmations and that more stakeholders were still calling for invitation letters.
And commenting on the Grand Coalition’s official position, Mr Chembe said the Coalition comprised of many alliances and some of them would attend the indaba.
“The Grand Coalition is made up of different alliances and we hope that some of them will attend the meeting,” Mr Chembe said.