28th October, 2014
First and foremost, we would like to thank the government for the release of the final draft constitution, it has not been an easy road but we appreciate the release. Also, we would like to congratulate all the stakeholders, opposition political parties, the civil societies and the Grand coalition that pushed for the release of the final draft constitution. We say job well done and let us continue with the same fighting spirit.
As Zambian Voice, we would like to state our position on the release of the Final Draft Constitution.
In our opinion, we have not really been moved in the Constitution Making Process (CMP), but we have just changed from one position of stagnation to the other.
Backtracking to when the Technical Committee’s (TC) Terms of Reference (ToR), the draft was supposed to be handed over simultaneously to the government and the people. However, the TC was disbanded before the Draft was released. The Draft has now been released by Government who are not the author or compiler of the document.
HOW AUTHENTIC IS THE RELEASED FINAL DRAFT?
The Constitution is a very important document which must be taken very seriously without circumventing simple processes in this manner. Issues of mistrust may arise to discredit the whole document. As a compromise, we would like to suggest that the members of the TC make a confirmation that the document released by the Government, is indeed authentic.
WE STILL NEED A ROADMAP
Obscurity has culminated the constitution making process from inception due to lack of a roadmap. Lack of a roadmap still clouds the process such that we don’t know where we are going even at this stage when the draft has been presented. We would like to call upon all the stakeholders not to lose focus in discussing the final draft without the roadmap. We might labour in futility if we dwell on the document not knowing the next process. If you don’t have a roadmap, the release of the Draft will amount to almost nothing, it is like having undated cheque.
WE STILL NEED A TIMEFRAME
The pattern of actions by government has consistently been ambiguous in as far as the constitution making process is concerned. The final draft was released for the public to review it but no timeframe has been set. It is not clear when this process will end. God knows it might go on in perpetuity. Therefore, we urge all stakeholders to demand for a timeframe on this stage and the entire constitution process.
WE NEED A CMP STRUCTURE
The constitution making process at the moment does not have a structure to manage it since the disbandment of the TC. This may cause confusion and stagnation of the entire process.
For example, who will take care of the submissions that might come as the result of the current public review of the draft at the Ministry of Justice. The direction by the Acting Justice Minister Hon. Simbyakula, in parliament to submit to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice was an after-thought. The Permanent Secretary may not have capacity to handle the submissions from the public. Besides the Government is perceived as an interested party that would not want to lose power by the new constitution. Therefore it is difficult to trust the ministry of Justice with submissions and subsequent alterations if any.
In view of the above, we suggest that the Government facilitates a process of coming up with a group of people from different sections of society to handle the remaining processes. This group must be formed in consultation with all possible stakeholders.
WE STILL NEED A LEGAL FRAMEWORK
So far, the constitution making process cannot be said to be a “People Driven” because government has an upper hand to even frustrate the entire process if they so wish. It is evident that Government frustrated the process by disbanding the TC, grabbing the document and shelving it at the basement of the Ministry of Justice and releasing it at their own suited time. This could not have been the case if the process was secured by a legal framework. The process can only be insulated from such ill-intentions by well outlined decrees abided by all stakeholders.
It is therefore imperative to demand for the Legal Framework even at this stage failure to which we will be at the mercy of the an interested party which stands to benefit if the process is frustrated, derailed or stagnated.
BUDGETS AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE CMP
Since the beginning of the constitution making process monies have been allocated in the budget and other sources. It is important for the public to know how much has been spent on this process so far, both from the budget and other sources if any. We require accountability because else government officials and others take advantage of the process for their own personal benefits.
Further we would like to know the breakdown of the K29 million that has been to this process in the 2015 budget. This will help us to appreciate Government’s plans on this process and accountability.
It is common sense that the constitution making process is an expensive venture to wholly factor in a deficit national budget, however, with the goodwill that Zambia enjoys from our cooperating partners, financial help may be available. What is needed is a political will, determination, strategic plan and people’s participation. We therefore ask Government to put in place a roadmap which will outline all the processes so that a total budget can be estimated. Government can then declare what resources are available for all Zambians to appreciate the shortfall so that those with means can make pledges to cover the total cost.
In conclusion, we urge all Zambians not to get excited by the release of the final draft, we still have a long way to go and therefore we should take precaution and demand for the prerequisites mentioned above to guarantee the enactment of a People Driven New Constitution which will be a true gift to the Zambian people from the Zambian people within a reasonable time.