By Andrew Kalima –
IT is suicidal for various stakeholders and political parties to ignore their calling role to participate in the refining of the country’s constitution.
Many commentators have expressed concern that some political parties and other stakeholders intend to shun the constitution amendment process.
“I wish to appeal to all stakeholders not to shun the process of refining the constitution,” appeals Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president Eddie Mwitwa.
LAZ, unlike other players in society, is willing to participate in the process of refining the constitution because the agenda was important to the country, and the citizenry at large.
This is why LAZ further appeals to members of the public to closely read the draft Bill and engage parliamentarians on clauses they want refined.
Government has been singing the same song, calling on political parties, stakeholders and the Church, among others, to make submissions to the amendment of the constitution process so that the supreme document of the land is validated.
Well, some political parties, through the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue, have asked for more time to make submissions but have not yet committed themselves to the process.
Minister of Justice Given Lubinda retorts: “We will give them more time”.
And if nothing happens within the set timeframe, the process to validate the document will advance, which is a fair deal even for those against the refining of the draft Bill.
Mr Lubinda has stopped at nothing in his crusade calling on all stakeholders in society to participate in the process of amending the draft Bill so that no one was left behind.
To show Government’s commitment to ensure the refining process of the supreme law was a success and all-inclusive, a staggering K2 million has been budgeted for the constitution amendment process.
Any other excuses by mostly political wings, as representatives of all Zambians, may not hold water and loud complaints from critics shunning the process now will be a sheer waste of time to tolerate once all is said and done in the interest of Zambians.
In one case, the Opposition Alliance watered down the Government’s Constitution refinement roadmap after Mr Lubinda unveiled it in Parliament recently.
At the United Party for National Development (UPND) secretariat in Lusaka, alliance members, UPND president Hakainde Hichilema and National Democratic Congress (NDC) consultant Chishimba Kambwili took turns labeling the process a shame.
As usual, without any credible evidence, they alleged that the process was a ploy by the Patriotic Front (PF) administration to manipulate the constitution and ‘rig’ the 2021 elections.
But it is pleasing that Zambians are aware and appreciate that the country’s judiciary attaches great importance to matters of constitutional development.
And the Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue (ZCID) should help in the collection of submissions from interested parties on refining process of the constitution.
The need for all players to be part of the process to improve or amend the constitution is important because this will create a socio-political atmosphere which was friendly for all in the country.
As British High Commissioner to Zambia Fergus Cochrane-Dyet says, political parties are critical players in the governance of a country and that was the reason their support in this national undertaking is important for the country.
Otherwise, you throw away your input in the constitution fine-tuning at your own peril because, perhaps, you always want things your way even if they do not add a cost to the benefit of Zambians.
You cannot keep a credible document down especially when the majority of Zambians and other interested parties have long welcomed the constitution roadmap.
I feel leaders should emulate Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) for, on many instances, calling on stakeholders to embark on sharing important constitutional details with the people they represent, that is, if there are any!
Many people have expressed consistent understanding that if political parties and other stakeholders continue to waste time by shunning to actively interpret constitutional matters to the general public, people in communities who need to be guided, such leaders are failing their roles in society.
If that is the case, they should disband and venture in less demanding projects than pretending to be serving the interest of Zambians.
Some political parties and NGOs are hallowed to be foreign funded for them to operate while, unfortunately so, they pretend promoting the interest of Zambians yet are failed political materials as evidenced by failure of some stakeholders to participate in the process to refine the constitution.
Yet the amendments to the constitution are important because they outline the freedoms given to the Zambian people.
I say so because the amendments to the consitution are important because it explain our rights and duties as citizens, as the document also protects individual freedom, and its fundamental principles govern the country.
Shunning to participate in the constitution refining is to ignore that the constitution places the government’s power in the hands of the citizens – establishing a system of checks and balances.
The constitution lays down the national goals which form the basic edifice on which the nation rests.
A constitution, besides thrusting on the rights of the citizens of the concerned nation, also has embedded in it the duties that the citizens require to adhere to as well.
For now, many will agree, not necessary with me but with the rational discourse, like any other, that Zambians are not sleeping over issues that affect them like contents of the constitution as well as the final product of the refined document.
The author is PF Copperbelt media and information chairperson