Editor's Comment

Urgently review constitution

WHEN Government under the Patriotic Front (PF) embarked on constitution amendments in 2016, it was hoped and believed that Zambia’s legal documentation was going to stand the test of time. But a few years down the line, it has emerged that the constitution amendments, which caused Members of Parliament almost sleepless nights towards the end of the sittings in 2016, were inadequate. For instance, it took Pastor Dan Pule to seek the opinion of the Constitutional Court to determine whether then President Edgar Lungu was eligible to contest the 2021 elections. It was a highly contentious matter as it exposed how porous the Constitution was because it became unclear whether the first year President Lungu served qualified for a term. Much as the Constitutional Court ruled that President Lungu served only one term, it caused so much tension in the country. There was an attempt by the PF to sanctify the Constitution last year through Bill 10, which was a contentious bill as civil society groups, some church mother bodies and the then major opposition, the United Party for National Development, objected to the bill, which eventually failed to go through. Surprisingly, the Constitution has failed to stand the test of time despite the several attempts made by successive governments. Zambians have been making submissions to the various constitutional review commissions. Surprisingly, most citizens’ submissions have not been honoured due to vested interests by sitting governments. But the lacunas in the Constitution have continued to impede governance and democracy. A case in point is the cancellation of the Kabwata parliamentary by-election following the withdrawal by the United Progressive Party’s candidate. Other than death, it is ironic that a conscious decision made by a candidate to withdraw from an election can cause the entire electoral process to be annulled.
Nine PF Members of Parliament (MPs) whose elections were nullified have petitioned the Constitutional Court following the refusal by the Speaker to allow them back in the House until their appeals have been determined. There are many other grey areas in the constitution and these must be cleared. The earlier this is done the better. The cost of having cobwebs in the constitution is high to the nation. Individuals feel the financial pinch. It doesn’t have to be that way. In the political arena, taking the Kabwata polls as an example again, millions of kwacha are going to be spent from the national treasury and coffers of political parties and individuals. Although it is said that democracy is expensive, such are costs that can surely be avoided and the money used on other needs. The constitution-making process has suffered from political interests, yet there are clauses that virtually everyone is agreed on. So why procrastinate? As the new dawn administration prepares to refine the Constitution so that it can stand the test of time, MPs should look at the bigger picture. They should detach their political egos and interests. They must put the interests of the country first.
For once, let the country have a Constitution which will stand the test of time.

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