The enactment of the new constitution being demanded by Zambians is not a priority for the Patriotic Front (PF) and government is not going to be stampeded into releasing the draft constitution until after it had been thoroughly studied, Defence Minister Edgar Lungu has said.
Lungu said the Zambia had a functioning constitution and that there was no constitutional crisis in the country for Zambians to continue pressuring government to release the draft constitution.
Lungu said in an interview that government was not going to allow the constitution to override more important and pressing needs such as economic infrastructure development and creating employment.
He said government was aware that the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) through the Grand Coalition on the Constitution had been paid by some unnamed donors to champion and push government to release the draft constitution.
Lungu said the Grand Coalition on the Constitution, a composition of the church, student bodies, trade unions and opposition political parties were not experts in the constitution making process and that government would continue ignoring their demands because there were more pressing needs than the constitution.
He said government was equally uncomfortable with some clauses in the draft constitution because they were costly adding the PF government was going to make sure that it enacted a constitution that was going to meet the realities of modern demands.
Lungu said government was also going to look at the implications of the Bill of Rights and the proposal of a constitutional court before handing the document to the public so that the country did not run the risk of having a constitution that was going to make governing difficult for the ruling party.
He said Zambians did not know the implication of the constitutional court and that government was not keen to have constitutional institutions that were going to make governance difficult.
He stated that government was waiting to receive the draft constitution and its report from the Technical Committee and would have to study the document thoroughly before releasing it to the public.
Lungu said there were a lot of other things government had committed its time and resources to and that the constitution while important was not going to derail government’s development programmes that would see the reduction of poverty levels and improve the lives of the citizens.
“The enactment of the new constitution is not a priority for the PF government. It is important but we have equally competing programmes that need the immediate attention of government. So the constitution cannot override the more important programmes and government is not going to be stampeded into releasing the draft constitution or enacting the new constitution,” Lungu said. Lungu said the referendum Zambians were demanding for was an expensive undertaking and that government would only consider enacting the constitution through the referendum after considering the cost implication of the process. Last week, Lungu said the constitution would be enacted through a referendum.