Referendum unavoidable, says the Grand Coalition

THE Patriotic Front (PF) government must resist the temptation of using the tyranny of numbers they have gained in the National Assembly to bulldoze the constitution making process, the Grand Coalition on the new Constitution has warned.

And the Coalition has said Zambians were determined to have a new people-driven constitution that would be enacted through a referendum before 2016 so that the next general elections could be held under the new supreme law of the land.

Grand Coalition spokesperson MacDonald Chipenzi said following the results of the just ended by-elections in which the PF scooped three seats of the five, Zambia had gone back to 2001 where one political party had the majority MPs in Parliament.

Mr Chipenzi told the Daily Nation that Zambians must remain alert and protect their democracy by ensuring that the PF was not allowed to use the tyranny of their numbers in Parliament to turn the country into a dictatorship.

He said the opposition had continued to lose their seats to the ruling party and that the scenario was going to negatively affect the oversight role the opposition political parties were playing in Parliament.

Mr Chipenzi said the arrogance of numbers by the ruling party was a danger to the constitution making process particularly that President Michael Sata was on record that Zambia had a functional constitution and that the current document only needed amendment.

Mr Chipenzi said the possibilities of making amendments to the current defective and dictatorial constitution had become high and he has urged Zambians to remain vigilant because the ruling party would easily be tempted to impose its own wishes on the country using their numbers.

“We have noted with concern the impact of the outcome of the just ended parliamentary by-elections which has created a tyranny of the majority in Parliament. We have literally gone back to 2001 when we had one political party dominating the House.

This has certainly weakened the oversight role the opposition political parties have been playing and this is a danger to democracy. With the PF enjoying the arrogance of numbers, the constitution making process could be affected especially that President Sata is on record that Zambia has a functional constitution and that the document only needed amendments,” Mr Chipenzi said.

He has however said Zambians were resolved to have the new constitution enacted through a referendum before the 2016 general elections and that no amount of delays and time buying would be tolerated by Zambians.

Mr Chipenzi who is the Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) executive director said time was no longer a factor in the constitution making process which controversially stalled during the reign of Wynter Kabimba as Justice Minister and PF secretary general.

He said Zimbabwe had set an example that with political will, time could not be a hindrance for Zambia to enact for herself a new and people driven constitution before the 2016 general elections.

Mr Chipenzi said Zimbabwe held its national referendum in March 2013 and in the same year, the country managed to hold its general elections which the international observes and monitors described as free and fair.

He advised that government should not attempt to use time as an excuse to refuse to enact a new constitution because Zimbabwe had proved that with political will, time would not be an obstacle to achieving an objective.

No amount of time buying will make us accept the delay in having a new constitution before 2016 and we are resolved that the draft constitution currently gathering dust in some office must be released before the independence Golden Jubilee celebrations. We were independent under a colonial constitution that is not democratic and we have statutes in the current document that were made in 1938,” Mr Chipenzi said.