The constitution Indaba being organized by Saccord has understandably received mixed reaction from opposition parties for the simple reason that Government has been less than transparent, honest and forthright in the manner it has handled the entire constitution process.
It is incredible and a national scandal that to date nobody in Government seems to know the whereabouts of the draft constitution so painstakingly drawn by the technical committee, whose terms of reference were unilaterally dismissed by the executive.
This is testimony of bad faith, very bad faith.
That is why ADD President Charles Milupi says it will be a sheer waste of time as Government has shown no interest in advancing the cause of a new constitution and is unlikely to do so unless the talks are structured purposely to achieve a step forward.
In addition to the Indaba there is the petition by 16 Presidents of Political parties who want President Michael Sata to call and chair a summit over the same matter.
The two are different and must be treated as such.
The Saccord Indaba, which we welcome, is a general invitation to all interest parties for a discussion over the constitution. We understand the Patriotic Front Secretary General Wynter Kabimba has indicated his willingness to participate.
On the other hand political party Presidents want President Sata to convene an urgent meeting to discuss the way forward for the Technical Committee draft constitution which has been handed to the Government and is already in the public purview.
So far State House has denied ever receiving the petition. This is a small matter as we believe another copy can be speedily delivered to State House.
It is very important for Saccord and political party Presidents to recognize that Zambians expect movement towards a new constitution and not talks about talks.
We know as a matter of fact that the Technical Committee has produced a draft, which draft the Government has been less than reluctant to show ownership, let alone discuss the way forward.
A meeting with Wynter Kabimba in our view will be a sheer waste of time. If he could fob off the entire National Assembly, which went into uproar at the last sitting because of the dismissive manner in which he dealt with the matter, there is no reason to believe that he will have anything new to say to individuals with no “state” authority.
Our view is, and has always been that the Patriotic Front Government will not budge on the constitution for as long there is the 50+1 clause.
The most productive way forward is for the grand coalition and all interest groups to come together to craft, finalize a draft people’s constitution which will serve as a benchmark and standard for the 2016 elections.
Attempting to force the PF to enact the constitution in 2016 may mean taking serious compromises in the interest of fitting in the PF agenda which may not be realized at the end of the day.
It is important that momentum created by political parties and civil society is directed towards a less fractious Endeavour and more into a concrete process of achieving consensus among the various clauses that have already created disquiet.
It is important that the final people’s draft achieves universal acclaim in order to qualify as a true people’s document which can be used to test the political will of the political parties aspiring to assume power after the 2016 elections.
Zambians must give to themselves a good constitution that will forever banish any emergence of dictatorship which is a distinct possibility given the caliber of pretenders that are seeking to take over from President Sata.
For all we know President Sata may be serving as the benign buffer between the cartel and state power. Given an opportunity to assume power the cartel will unleash savage impunity for which they are already known.
After so many years of failed attempts time is now for a people driven constitution.