Editor's Comment

Constitution-making process requires citizens’ voice

THREE months after the National Dialogue Forum (NDF) acrimony over the constitution, debate has heightened with lobby groups urging Government to withdraw the document from Parliament.
Delegates deliberated on the amendment of the Constitution of Zambia Act number 2 of 2016 as well as reforming the law on the Electoral process, the public order and the regulation of the political parties’ bill based on submissions from various stakeholders.
The NDF sat 16 days from the initial 10 days that were provided for in the National Dialogue Act of 2019. Minister of Justice Given Lubinda extended the sittings of the NDF in order to effectively attend to all the Bills that were before the Forum.
The NDF was tasked to facilitate the Constitution refinement process and regulation of political parties, public order and electoral process reforms.
There has been so much debate surrounding the outcome of the NDF, with the Patriotic Front recently criticising some outputs.
Some civil society organisations, the three church mother bodies and the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions have come out strongly against the NDF resolutions and have demanded that the document be withdrawn from Parliament.
While the debate is on-going, citizens, who are the owners of the constitution, are quiet.
That is why Mr Lubinda says citizens should not be discouraged from making submissions to the Constitution Amendment Bill because Government wants the final product to be a reflection of what Zambians want.
So, while the lobby groups, which represent their constituencies, are making presentations to Government, citizens should not be aloof because the Constitution is their document.
The Constitution spells out how citizens should be governed. Therefore, it is imperative that they, too, should speak out so that Government can take their submissions into consideration.
It is a pity that the NDF seems not to have met people’s expectations despite the 16 days of brainstorming at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka.
The United Party for National Development (UPND) officially boycotted the NDF, although some of its Members of Parliament attended.
Having been boycotted by the major opposition and the three church mother bodies is the reason it appears there was no consensus.
The National Dialogue Forum, constituted to come up with resolutions that will facilitate the amendment of the constitution, has come to an end.
The Constitution-making process has always been contentious in Zambia.
It has been contentious because of political self-interests that have characterised most of the Constitutional commissions from Chona, Mvunga, Mwanakatwe and Mung’omba.
It will remain so if citizens take a back seat and allow a few people to be speaking on this very important national issue.
People are free to make submissions, whether in support or against Government, because it is their democratic right.
It has always been the wish of every sitting Government to come up with a document that will stand the test of time.
However, with every Constitution passed, lacunas continue to manifest, just like the 2016 document, which is now under review.
But there is an opportunity to help the current Government refine the Constitution to stand the test of time by citizens making submissions.

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