A coalition of the civil society organisations and the Oasis Forum has vowed that it will continue to advocate the adoption of the new constitution through a referendum and has announced that it would soon embark on a nationwide campaign to demand for a referendum as a means of enacting the constitution.
The coalition has also given the government up the September 30 to deliver to the public a second draft constitution stating that it was dismayed by the prolonged delay in finalising the constitution review process.
Speaking at a media briefing at the Women for Change offices, the coalition of the civil society organisations and the Oasis Forum demanded that the government must come out in the open on the issue of a referendum because it was the best mode of adopting the constitution.
Non Governmental Organisation Coordinating Committee (NGOCC) chairperson Beatrice Grillo who represented the Oasis Forum said the media should vigorously disseminate the core messages that would make it possible for the government to complete the constitution review process in the most acceptable time.
Grillo said the civil society organisations had embarked on a campaign for a people-driven constitution because of the past lessons and experiences where successive governments had failed to give Zambians a durable and popular constitution.
She said the coalition had developed a ten point basic minimum principles which would be the benchmark that would qualify a constitution that would truly represent the aspirations of the Zambians.
Grillo said among the principles was the enjoyment and enforcement of fundamental human rights, equality before the law and adherence to the rule of law and separation of powers.
Other principles included amendments requiring majority support, recognition for traditional leaders and customs, and the creation of independent and impartial public bodies and commissions apart from the enactment and adoption of the constitution.
“We are resolved now not to allow fragmentation of the civil society voice which only makes it easier for those in power to divide, rule, manipulate and weaken the civil society. We vow to remain united for the sake of Zambians because the constitution is food for Zambians on the table,” Grillo said.
And Young African Leaders Initiative president Andrew Ntewewe said the civil society organisations were mainly concerned with the lack of clarity on the next step of the constitutional-making process after the draft constitution had been finalised.
Ntewewe said it was worrying that the government had not been clear as to when the final draft of the new constitution would be released to the public.
He said the silence and apparent inaction on the part of the government had raised concerns as to whether the process had been hijacked by those in power to drive their own selfish motivations.
“Learning from the past where we have had four constitutional reviews since Independence and non that have met the desires and satisfaction of the citizens, it is the duty of the civil society and the media to ensure that the contents of the current draft constitution are protected and that is why we are working on a private members bill that would be tabled in the next life of parliament,” Ntewewe said.
He said the coalition of the 260 civil society organisations were working on protecting the contents of the draft constitution by developing a joint-strategy that would ensure that a popular and people driven constitution was enacted as espoused by the submissions of the people.
Ntewewe said there was need for continued advocacy to popularize the basic minimum requirements of enacting the constitution through a referendum.