The Draft Constitution that was reported to have been lost by the Ministry of Justice has finally been found and Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba has confessed having received the document from the Technical Committee, after months of denial of the whereabouts of the document.
Mr Kabimba yesterday admitted that the second and final Draft Constitution which was reported to have gone missing was in fact in his office and that the document would only be released to the public after cabinet approval.
The Justice Minister who is PF secretary general confirmed fears that the constitution would not be enacted before 2016 when he announced that the constitution making process was never among the five top priorities of the Patriotic Front manifesto, which the ruling party had promised to deliver the people driven constitution within 90 days in power.
Mr Kabimba has also disclosed that President Michael Sata has disbanded the Technical Committee which government was currently investigating after accusing it of having leaked the document to online publications.
Mr Kabimba has however left Zambians guessing yet again as he has refused to indicate a tentative date or time frame in which the documents would be released to the general public.
Speaking during a constitutional summit organized by the Southern Africa Center for Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) which was boycotted by all the major political parties and the Grand Coalition on the constitution, Mr Kabimba said he could not tell when the government would finally release the final document to the public.
“We received the Draft Constitution from the Technical Committee and it will only be released to the public after the approval of cabinet. The Technical Committee concluded its works and it has since been dissolved and the draft is at the Ministry of Justice and it is currently at the handover process to the President Michael Sata. It must also be clear that delivering the new constitution was not among the top five priorities of the PF manifesto because we had education, health, agriculture among others,” Mr Kabimba said.
Mr Kabimba however said the constitution was still a priority of the Patriotic Front (PF) government but hastened to state that although government was committed to delivering a people driven constitution, it had more pressing and important economic programmes before shifting its attention to the constitution.
He said President Sata appointed the Technical Committee to create a platform that would allow consensus building and public confidence in the constitution making process.
Mr Kabimba said he did not understand why the 16 main opposition political parties, the Grand Coalition and the church decided to boycott the SACCORD summit when they had been demanding for a roadmap and the time frame.
“Am ready to be challenged by anyone on this constitution debate and running away from such kind of debates will not help the government release. My ministry will consider releasing the document to the general public after the cabinet gives me a go ahead,” Mr Kabimba said.
And former transport and communications minister in the MMD government William Harrington took Mr Kabimba to task after he demanded that governments explain how it intended to handle the Barotse Agreement of 1964 in the draft constitution.
Mr Harrington said the indaba was successful because the delegates and participants took Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba to task by making a commitment that he would soon present the document to the cabinet.
Harrington wanted to know whether the government was delaying to release the final draft because of the contentious Barotse Agreement of 1964.
“There is a rumor that you are delaying to release the constitution because United States is interested in Barotse land, I want to find out if it is true or not,” Harrington asked.
But Mr Kabimba refused to answer the question stating that he had not read the document to coment on its contents.
“I am not going to answer that question because I do not know whether the second draft talks about the Barotse Agreement or not,” Mr Kabimba said.
And Democratic Governance and Human Rights Advocates (DEGHA) coordinator Gerald Mutelo questioned why the gathering was full of PF members.
Mr Mutelo demanded that Justice Minister explained how possible it was that the hearing would be credible.
And conveners of the summit, SACCORD executive director Boniface Cheembe said the meeting was successful.
“We are happy that the Minister of Justice has cleared speculations on the missing draft constitution, which is a success,” Mr Cheembe said. Meanwhile Zambian Voice executive director Chilufya Tayali thanked Mr Kabimba and SACCORD for calling for such a meeting because it gave Zambians hope that the document was not lost.
Mr Tayali told Daily Nation that some hope was created after the Justice Minsters presentation during the summit.
“He assured us that the final draft constitution is not lost and he will present it before the cabinet meeting,” Mr Tayali said.
Mr Tayali said he would be disappointed if the government further delays to release the final draft after making a commitment that it would soon be presented before Cabinet for approval