IT is unreasonable for anybody to demand for the enactment of a new Constitution through a referendum now because there is no time before the next general elections are held next year, former deputy minister of Finance Mbita Chitala has said.
Dr. Chitala said it was without any doubt that all Zambians wanted a new Constitution that would advance the country’s democracy and development but there was no time for holding the referendum before the 2016 general elections.
“Let me also comment on this unnecessary impasse on the constitution-making. The process for this is all well known. For the current set-up, a few questions seem to divide our people. Is it feasible to conduct a referendum to amend Part 3 of our Constitution given what Article 79 provides? Is it wise to continue demanding for a referendum to adopt the whole Constitution before 2016 elections? For many of us, Article 79 of our Constitution provides an impediment which makes it practically impossible to conduct a referendum on the two issues, for to do so, it will require conducting a census to determine the population of eligible voters, to ensure that a big majority registers to vote and ensure that not less than 50 percent of those eligible to vote do in fact cast their votes in the referendum,” Dr. Chitala explained.
He said for now, most Zambians should sit down and negotiate what they should immediately amend and advance ahead of the 2016 general elections.
Dr. Chitala observed that the most important clauses were those in the electoral process and devolution.
He said no political party or social grouping should be afraid to look at the two parts as the process was for the public good.
“The only way we shall advance our democracy is to try the route of consensus reaching. Any other route will tend to divide the nation unnecessarily. Those in charge of our State together with the political parties and all civil society organizations should find a way of sitting together and agree on what to amend. The referendum on the whole new Constitution should be left to the next government after 2016,” said Dr. Chitala.
He said theoretically it was possible to hold a referendum before the 2016 general elections and enact a new Constitution.
Dr. Chitala said Zambians should not be misled by individuals whose interests were not in tandem with the demands of the nation as at now over the constitution making process to force for a referendum when the circumstance seems not to allow.
“In theory, this can be done. In practice, this is impossible to achieve unless people are forced in a draconian way to register and vote. In our country where illiteracy predominates and where the world outlook of many of our compatriots is determined by magic and superstition, it would be unreasonable for anybody to demand for a referendum now,” said Dr. Chitala.
He said his attempt to have Article 79 removed by the Supreme Court in 1996 failed, adding it was only the people of Zambia who could make changes to the Constitution and not individuals.
Dr. Chitala said article 79 of the Constitution of Zambia which gives power to Parliament to amend the Constitution was repugnant and should be done away with.
“In fact, the 1996 Constitution was adopted by the MMD dominated Parliament and not by a referendum. It becomes therefore bad conduct for the same Parliament to unlawfully provide that no other Parliament should have the power to amend Part 3 and Article 79. This contradicts with the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty where no parliament can legislate against another Parliament as some of our legal minds have been insincerely advocating. In our set-up, Article 79 is not only unreasonable but is repugnant to public interest,” said Dr. Chitala.
He also said the Law Association of Zambia should work towards stricking off clauses which are repugnant to the interest of the people of Zambia in a democratic state.