The constitution drafting process is by all accounts a dead letter in as far as the Patriotic Front is concerned because it contains many clauses that they have previously opposed and would not have wanted included in the constitution. There are many such clauses including the 50 plus 1, proportional representation and a host of others which various PF officials have opposed openly as being idealistic and therefore untenable.
On the other hand civil society represented by the Oasis Forum has been advocating for these clauses to ensure that elections produce definitive leadership than the current situation of one past the post which is based on a simple majority.
The difference between the PF and the rest of society is very stark, real and palpable to the extent that the draft constitution leaked to the media and now in the public domain is unlikely to be advanced for any further processing.
It is certainly unlikely that the government will subject it to the referendum which civil society would have wished. Instead the President has made it very clear that the 2016 elections will be held under the current constitution.
This is not what civil society including the churches would have wanted.
Given the circumstances it is imperative that the church reverts to the Cathedral where the final multi-party proximity discussions and talks were held between UNIP and the MMD. The church brokered the peace and atmosphere which engendered the ultimate elections that ushered multi-partyism without the shedding of any blood or indeed serious crisis.
We are at the point of flux, on the cusps of crisis unless decisive measures are taken on the constitution.
While appreciating the concerns expressed by the Patriotic Front it must be realized that the constitution is a document for all Zambians and intended to protect the common good more than any sectarian or group interest.
Therefore the only credible independent broker is the church which has the appropriate credentials to mediate and pressurize for the immediate movement of the Constitution making process. The stories about another government drafting committee, is provocative and a recipe for conflict.
We have enjoyed peace and harmony for the last 49 years but this peace can be lost very easily as was exemplified recently by the shutdown of Lusaka’s central business district by marauding pang wielding thugs.
As a nation we must learn from what has transpired elsewhere including Kenya which has had a very effective constitution writing programme. Their new constitution, a result of tripartite participation from government, civil society and the Church, has resulted in a document that has proved resilient enough to withstand the stress of a disputed presidential election.
The judiciary stood in the breach and because of the respect it enjoys was able to obviate what should have been a major crisis reminiscent of the bloody outcome of the previous elections.
That is why it is important that Zambians of all shades of opinion must come together and support this constitution that will ensure peace albeit its questionable exposure.