By Gershom Ndhlovu
Is the role that the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue (ZCID) going on of sensitising people on the Constitution-making process not an expensive repeat of what the Mung’omba Constitution Review Commission played when it went round the country to collect views from the people? What is it that the ZCID wants to tell us that we do not know?
One would think that what matters at this point is the question of implementing the recommendations of the CRC and one of the most important recommendations is the adoption of the constitution through a Constituent Assembly. What I do not understand is what aspects of the constitution which is yet to be enacted which we need to know that Dr Katele Kalumba and his spokesman Newton Ng’uni at ZCID will tell us about?
The Government through President Mwanawasa and his Justice Minister Mr George Kunda have been playing semantics with the people over the nomenclature of the assembly that is supposed to thrash out the final document. They have come up with the name Constitutional Council or whatever it is, rather than the Constituent Assembly proposed by the Mung’omba Commission.
The rationale of their semantic games is that it is only Parliament that can pass laws and no other body and certainly not the Constituent Assembly so desired by the petitioners to the CRC.
We have had four Constitutional Review Commissions in the history of our country since independence, namely the Mainza Chona commission, the Patrick Mvunga commission, the John Mwanakatwe commission and the Willa Mung’omba commission.
The last three have more or less come up with similar recommendations regarding the mode of adopting the constitution which is through a Constituent Assembly—a recommendation that our three presidents namely Dr Kaunda, Dr Chiluba and Mr Mwanawasa, a lawyer at that, seem to have been uncomfortable with.
Instead of playing on our minds about the constitution and wasting the much needed national resources on a futile exercise of “enlightening” us on the yet to be enacted constitution, Messrs Mwanawasa and Kunda should pave way for parliament to pass a law that would authorise a Constituent Assembly to thrash out the constitution which would then go before the nation for a referendum.
Although circumstances were different in South Africa and Namibia, coming from apartheid minority regimes, the two countries have in place some of the best constitutions on the continent because of the truly inclusive nature of the constitution-making process in those countries.
It is difficult to understand why Mr Mwanawasa, who indicated when he appointed the CRC that he would go by the people’s wishes, has suddenly changed his stance to now impose his personal wishes on the constitutional making process. As for the argument of cost, it may be costly now but whatever is attained now would pay off in the future. While the cost of trying to save now will still be felt when the next president will want to change the constitution and going through the same motions of appointing a CRC and start the process all over again.
The legal argument can be counted by what we have always heard: “Laws are made by man for man, and they can be changed by man for man” or something to that effect. Both Mr Mwanawasa and Mr Kunda have an opportunity to smoothen the process by making and amending laws that should make the whole process easy instead of dabbling in road maps that only complicate things.
And instead of just finalising the whole process, we have yet another group of political cronies going round to tell us about the constitution making process which is altogether unnecessary and a total waste of resources, unless of course it is not the taxpayer footing the bill for he has been fleeced before through meaningless undertakings like this.
For the political parties that are involved in the ZCID, they need to be serious on the stand they take on issues of the constitution on which they will be judged upon in the future instead of the yo-yo position shown by the UPND in the last few days.—firstname.lastname@example.org.