Editor's Comment

Zambians must study draft constitution

ZAMBIA could achieve, within months, the objective of a good constitution by simply taking to Parliament non-contentious draft provisions for enactment and taking to the referendum those that are disputed.
Zambians must consider a cheaper and yet faster approach to achieving a new constitution. The cost of doing so must be measured against other equally important demands in the national treasury.
If the country goes by way of a referendum, the nation will be expected to spend colossal amounts of money, not withstanding that more funds from the treasury will be required to hold the 2016 general elections.
Obviously, the enactment of the draft constitution is not as simple as it may sound.
Government has decided to table all provisions of the draft constitution in the House during the budget sitting except the bill of rights and provisions on the alternation of the constitution provided under Article 79 which will be subjected to a referendum during the 2016 general elections is the best way to go.
Minister of Justice Ngosa Simbyakula recently told Parliament that following concerns raised on the identification of clauses for enactment into the constitution, Cabinet decided to table the entire draft constitution before the House for identification of contentious clauses.
To this effect, Government noted that the Constitution Amendment Bill 2015 and the Constitution of Zambia Bill 2015 have been drafted and published today and are expected to be tabled in the budget sitting after ensuring compliance with Article 79 which requires a 30-day publication period prior to introduction in the House.
We urge members of the public to take this opportunity to study the contents and make their submissions to the relevant committee, which Parliament will appropriate.
Such a gesture reflects that Government does not want to impose on its citizens, which clauses it may consider as non-contentious but has invited the public to judge for themselves which clauses fall in that category.
Like Dr Simbyakula stated, President Lungu is also on record advising Zambians to go for a cheaper but faster way of enacting the constitution.
Even Some political leaders such as National Restoration Party president Elias Chipimo Jr recently said the country does not have the resources to embark on a costly process of repealing the current constitution.
We wonder why some sections of society have been against this manner of enacting the constitution, yet going as suggested by government, the country will serve huge sums of money that could be channelled in other sectors such as health and education.
We are not in any way stating that government cannot be criticised but what we are calling for is constructive analysis that will look at the bigger picture for the betterment of the nation.
Neglecting certain sectors of the economy just because some sections insist that government should go by way of a referendum, both for non-contentious and disputed clauses will only see our people deprived, including those that feel all clauses should be enacted by way of the referendum, of services that government wants so much to provide to its citizens.
Previous constitution review commissions had all recommended that the draft be adopted by a constituent assembly comprising representative delegates.
Thus, many stakeholders believe that if this process was skipped, then there would be no need for a costly referendum.
However, the Grand Coalition, comprising political parties, some religious organisations and civil society groups have insisted that there ought to be an adoption referendum and that the current constitution should be repealed and not amended before the 2016 general elections as suggested by government.
The contentious issues include dual citizenship clause, the running mate section and 50+1 percent majoritarian article as well as the emotive issue of land.
The step by government is confirmation that the leadership is determined to deliver a holistic constitution that reflects the people’s wishes.

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