By Gershom Ndhlovu
Legal issues, especially those to do with the constitution making process, stump me, I must admit, but this round of making the constitution is simply baffling. A few years ago, the President, Dr Levy Mwanawasa, State Counsel, against all opposition, appointed a Constitution Review Constitution chaired by renowned lawyer Willa Mung’omba.
The epitome of opposition to the Mung’omba commission was the resignation of Zambia Democratic Congress president, the late Dean Mung’omba from the body just after the first sitting, if I remember correctly.
Forgive me if I am wrong, but Willa and Dean were brothers and yet the latter refused to be part of the charade, and if President Mwanawasa’s sidestepping the results of his own creation is anything to go by, Dean was right to think the whole thing was a joke.
In fact, Mr Mwanawasa has not said very kind things about the job done by the Mung’omba team particularly for suggesting the mode of adopting the resultant document via a Constituent Assembly.
The issue of the high cost of such a venture kept cropping up with the argument that parliament was adequate for enacting the draft constitution into law. But I am stumped even more that the same amount that was to be costly setting up a CA is now being spent on the National Constitution Conference.
The subsequent setting up of the Zambia Centre for Inter-Party Democracy (ZCID) with it is baby--the NCC has proved just that, a joke that Dean feared his brother’s CRC would be.
What I don’t understand is why ZCID and NCC should be going round the country to “sensitise” the people on the constitution making process and even debate what to include or not include in the document that is being thrashed out by the overpaid delegates who are making even more money in subsistence allowances for touring the countryside.
What happened to the views collected by Willa & Co? Has it been the proverbial case of throwing the bath water together with the baby? Could Mwanawasa and his lawyer friend, George Kunda—Legal Affairs Minister—not have salvaged the people’s submissions which would then have been reconsidered by the overpaid NCC delegates?
The current constitution making process is the most duplicitous (as in both double work and dubiousness) I have seen since the 1972 Chona commission and I only hope that the nation will not have to assemble another group of people, including traditional healers, to make another constitution in the next half century or so.
And talking about traditional healers and other delegates, there is one who sat on the John Mwanakatwe CRC, on the Willa Mung’omba CRC and now on the NCC.
Incidentally, he is also one of those that pushed for President Chiluba’s third term attempt, calling all those, particularly his fellow clergy, charging that those who opposed the former president were going against the Bible because it was “God” who wanted Chiluba to “carry on” at State House.
But stranger still, the NCC which has enough lawyers, is hiring other lawyers to give talks to the delegates on the obvious, the need for a constitution that is not made to disadvantage individuals, separation of powers, etc. I know that the issue of age has been discussed in one of the provinces by the ZCID/NCC teams who are/have been on sensitisation jaunts.
But a matter that would be laughable if it were not serious is that some members of ZCID now feel that the NCC Act should be amended obviously because they have realised some shortcomings with the current NCC Act.
The signals coming from Mr Mwanawasa regarding the 50 per cent plus one issue for the president-elect and those from the Chief Government Spokesman, one Michael, better known as Mike, Mulongoti are neither encouraging nor inspiring as an element of arm-twisting the delegates is becoming evident and the ruling MMD has an inbuilt majority on the NCC.
Maybe PF president Michael Sata (I wish him a quick recovery) was right after all, to boycott the grand circus currently going on.
The issue of Onshore Investments “expatriate” labourers has just accentuated what Zambians have always known about how mean employers of Indian origin can be. If they could give a “bum deal” to their like, imagine the treatment indigenous Zambian get in the shops, factories or on farms run by Indians or Zambians of Indian origin.
At the expense of repeating what I have said before, I recently saw a picture of a Zambian worker at an engineering firm owned by an Indian or a Zambian of Indian origin with only torn footwear on and had no safety goggles when using the arc-welding torch.
But even more baffling is how the ever tough-talking Home Affairs Minister Ronnie Shikapwasha allowed the importation of wheelbarrow pushing labourers to come all the way from India when Zambians from Kapisha, Chiwempala and other areas in Chingola can push wheelbarrows and turn “indaka” or concrete.
The Onshore Investments case reminds one of the Malaysian labourers who were brought in to build the Millennium Village by the Presidential Housing Initiative in the late 1990s. However, credit should go to the Indian workers who could not take the abuse inflicted by their fellow countrymen who employed them by forcing 20 people to a room in a three bedroom house, use chamber pots to answer the call of nature and get paid “1 metre” or K1 million which cannot buy enough flour for chapatti and curry spices for Chicken Tikka or Massala.
Chingola Municipal Council town clerk, Charles Sambondu should not jump on the bandwagon now when he had an opportunity as far back as February to correct the situation when he realised that Onshore Investment workers were being packed in houses in circumstances that even sardines would tolerate.
The problem with Zambian local authorities, like other government agencies, is that they are reactive rather than proactive. The Chingola matter would have died a natural death had it not been for the strike.
Zambians who will be employed by Onshore should not accept peanuts that have been rejected by the gallant Indians who even went on strike to register their displeasure.