THE final draft Constitution has finally been released after months of acrimony between Government and a number of stakeholders who feared that there was a scheme by the Patriotic Front (PF) to tamper and doctor the contents of the document.
The release of the final draft Constitution has however sparked controversy as Government has neither set a deadline for the consultation period nor has it set up a road map and a legal framework that would protect the process.
Opposition political party Members of Parliament yesterday took Government to task over the failure to explicitly state the duration of another consultative process that has been left open-ended.
Acting Justice Minister Ngosa Simbyakula was bombarded by a barrage of questions from opposition MPs who demanded for a clear roadmap and a legal framework because they feared that the second consultative process was only a scheme to frustrate and delay the enactment of the new Constitution before the 2016 general elections.
Dr Simbaykula, who is Home Affairs Minister, said Government had decided to release the document on the eve of the Golden Jubilee independence celebrations so that Zambians could study and reflect on the submissions.
He said the consultative process was also a time during which stakeholders could check if the document had been tampered with or doctored.
Dr Simbyakula said this was the first time in the history of the country that a constitution-making process had been done without the interference of the party in power and that it was the expectation of Government that Zambians would have time to debate and make further consultation on the process.
Dr Simbyakula however could not explicitly state whether the new Constitution would be enacted through a referendum, stating that if it was the wish of the people, Government would be able to facilitate the process.
“President Michael Sata has continuously said that his Government was committed to give Zambians a people-driven Constitution that would stand the test of time. And because of the need to consult widely and get consensus and in keeping with aspirations of the people, I now present the final draft Constitution through the release of the draft to generate further consultations. The PF does not want to be a prime mover of the process and that is why we want Zambians to be the champions of the process,” Dr Simbyakula said.
But soon after announcing the release of the final draft Constitution, opposition MPs strongly criticized Government for having deliberately failed to provide a roadmap and a legal framework to protect the process.
The opposition MPs described the release of the document as a mockery to Zambians because Government had decided to leave the consultative process open-ended in what was said to be a scheme to delay the enactment of the Constitution until after the 2016 general elections.
Mafinga MMD Member of Parliament Catherine Namugala said the PF government should not have the notion that releasing the final draft Constitution was a gift to Zambians.
MsNamugala said the release of the draft without providing a roadmap and a timeframe of when the consultative process would end and when the new Constitution would be enacted was nothing but mockery of the worst kind.
Chembe MMD MP Mwansa Mbulakulima said this was not the first time that Zambians had been made to wait for a new Constitution that never was stating that the country had seen four constitution review commissions and that non had given Zambians a constitution.
UPND Mazabuka MP Garry Nkombo said the constitution-making process under the PF had been the most acrimonious one and demanded to know when the contents of the final draft Constitution were going to be protected through a legal framework.
Bwengwa MP Highvie Hamududu said Zambians had agreed on the contents of the final draft constitution and all they were waiting for was its enactment through a referendum.
Kalomo MP Request Muntanga described the Government’s consultative process of the draft Constitution as another “Donchi Kubeba” while his counterpart Mwandi MP Michael Kaingu said the release of the draft was nothing but permissible harm to Zambians.
Cornelius Mweetwa, the Choma Central lawmaker accused Government of sponsoring confusion in the constitution-making process by releasing the document for consultations when Zambians across political and religious affiliations were agreed on the contents.
“We are demanding for a roadmap and Government is here confusing people with another consultative process. The Grand Coalition on the Constitution has agreed on the contents. Why are you sponsoring confusion in this process under the veil of consultation? Mr Mweetwa asked.