THE Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) has accused the Grand Coalition on a people-driven Constitution of attempting to hijack the current constitution-making process.
And political activist Dante Sanders yesterday backed President Edgar Lungu’s suggestion to make amendments to the republican Constitution.
YALI governance advisor Isaac Mwanza said the civil society in Zambia should re-assess its position in a democracy and avoid conducting itself in a manner that compromises its mandate with that of Government. Mr Mwanza said whether as a single unit or in coalition, civil society must recognize the governance system that has been legitimately elected into office by the people.
“YALI is firmly of the view that we as civil society, while assuming our rightful place in a democratic dispensation, should nevertheless respect the popular mandate conferred upon the government of the day by the people themselves through the ballot.
He said it was self-contradictory for the coalition to demand more time and resources for public sensitisation on a referendum when funds allocated for the process were inadequate to hold the event within the 2015 Budget.
Mr Mwanza said the suggested process would actually require more work which could not be completed within the proposed “short period of time”.
He said it was becoming more evident that the Grand Coalition had diverted from its original mandate it was founded for in Chisamba which have been overtaken by the core interests of political parties on whose behalf some organisations in the coalition seemed to speak.
“Much as we at YALI believe that the country must hold a referendum on the Bill of Rights as required by law, we also believe that we can also build consensus so that urgent political issues which we all agree on can be passed by Parliament by way of amendments.
“We also believe that the way forward should not be led by the same members of the Technical Committee who produced the Draft Constitution, so that they take a second look at their own work; rather, YALI is firmly of the view that the process must allow other minds to lead.
“If the Grand Coalition realise and accept that Zambia is bigger than any individual or coalition, they should not be so rigid in their perspective, whereby they refuse to accept any proposals short of a referendum,” he said.
YALI has since reiterated that whether the entire Draft Constitution goes to the referendum or not, Parliament would still have to ultimately enact the Constitution through a two-third majority vote
“YALI believes the proposal by the Ministry of Justice to constitute the Constitution Implementation Team (CIT) is a better way to go towards harmonising some of the contentious issues and re-assessing the work the Technical Committee has already done,” he said.
And Mr Saunders said there were issues in the Constitution which could be amended immediately such as reducing the powers of the President and to vest them in institutional frameworks within government. He said this when he featured on Millennium Radio ‘The Interview’ yesterday.
“I do agree with President Lungu that there are some serious and contentious issues that we can change immediately,” said Mr Saunders. Alliance For Better Zambia (ABZ) President Frank Bwalya has supported suggestion by Government not to enact the draft Constitution through a referendum.
Father Bwalya says adopting a constitution through a referendum will be costly as it requires the country to go through an election and a population census.
Father Bwalya has however advised Government to table the matter before stakeholders to ensure a smooth process.
He says there is need for Government to dialogue with stakeholders before a decision is made over the matter.