There is absolutely no need for the current constitutional deadlock because the need for a new constitution is agreed by all sides of the argument.
As we have said before the difference is the mode of adoption and in our view Parliament has to play a role if indeed the rule of law has to be respected. What is at issue is how the current draft will be managed to a point where it translates into our final constitution.
The Law Association of Zambia together with the Grand Coalition for a People Driven Constitution are adamant that the present draft as constituted by the technical committee should be subjected to a referendum before being legislated by the National Assembly.
The alternative proposal being that a legal framework to ring fence and protect the draft should be created before being subjected to the legislative mechanism in parliament.
What is not in doubt and indeed what the law provides for is for the National Assembly to enact laws and the constitution is the supreme court of the land which must be enacted by the authorized body which is the national assembly.
This cannot and should not be avoided because doing so would be setting a very dangerous precedence for our country that has witnessed previous attempts to usurp de jure and de facto state authority.
We must learn from other countries that have successfully introduced constitutional reforms albeit from very difficult circumstances. Among them is Kenya which started constitutional reforms in 1966 when it was found expedient to abolish provincial assemblies to form a uni-cameral assembly. Further changes were made in 1969 incorporating major amendments.
These changes, however, did not satisfy the need for a new constitutional order, therefore by 1976 the need for a new constitution became imperative and by 1982 the demand for a new constitution and a new democratic order became a major rallying point for dissent resulting in attempts at Government overthrows so much so that by 1982 multi-partism was abolished. Kenya became a one-party state.
But the tide of change that swept across the continent forced radical changes and by 1991 Kenya once again became a multi-party state and to prevent any further regression constitutional changes were considered.
The attempt was half hearted and driven mainly by the Government so much so that a referendum held in 2005 defeated a Government proposed constitution.
This was after a lot of time, effort and money were expended through the 2004 Boma’s draft that divided the country even further.
In 2005 the government ignored the Boma’s draft and introduced a Bill that effectively resulted in the 2005 constitutional referendum that was defeated.
The country had to go back to the drawing board and sadly after the elections of 2007, the country descended into violence, which saw hundreds killed and several thousands others displaced.
It took a team of mediators to bring the various parties together. This team included Koffi Annan, President Kufor of Ghana who was then Chairman of the African Union and a host of other eminent leaders who finally prevailed on the establishment of a committee of experts that drew a new harmonized draft.
The draft was published in 2010 and amendments were made and a draft constitution was subjected to a national referendum resulting in the promulgation of the constitution in the same year.
It is however, ironic that Parliament established the constitutional implementation oversight committee that was mandated to oversee and ensure the implementation of the new constitution.
Kenya could have been saved the turmoil, bloodletting and gratuitous violence if from the very start the parties had compromised.
This is a lesson we must learn.