IT IS disappointing that Zambia’s political leaders have been acting like sworn enemies and avoiding dialogue which has resulted into the country having many unresolved political, economic, social and constitutional issues, veteran politician Vernon Mwaanga has said.
Dr Mwaanga said dialogue was vital in a democratic society and Zambia being a democratic country could use inter-party dialogue to ameliorate the many unresolved economic, political, social and constitutional challenges.
He has urged President Edgar Lungu to consider appointing a two-member team to expedite the constitutional-making process which has created acrimony between Government, the civil society, political parties and the general citizenry.
Dr Mwaanga said it was important for political leaders in the country to have serious and meaningful dialogue on the new draft Constitution so that the process could be completed and facilitate the enactment of a people-driven Constitution.
He said Zambians will pass harsh judgment on political leaders who are going to fail to make the constitution-making process a priority before the 2016 general elections,
Dr Mwaanga said in a statement yesterday that the two-member team that could be appointed should be given a timeframe in which to conclude its work on the constitution-making process which he fears had become an open-ended exercise.
Dr Mwaanga said the Patriotic Front (PF) was extremely vocal during the campaigns in 2011 and promised a new Constitution within 90 days but the pledge had been abandoned as the ruling party had U-turned on many of its pre-election pledges.
Dr Mwaanga said it was disappointing that Government was saying that a national referendum was not possible as it was problematic because of Article 79 of the current Constitution which is said to have restrictive eligibility clauses for those who would be entitled to be registered voters for the purpose of a referendum.
He said the PF was aware of the restrictive clause as it had always been there and it was unacceptable that Government should start inventing reasons and excuses to delay the enactment of the new Constitution.
“I find it disappointing that our political leaders invest time in avoiding to meet, run away from dialogue and from talking to each other as opposed to talking at each other. Dialogue is vital in a democratic society and more especially in Zambia where we still have many unresolved political, economic, social and constitutional challenges. It is my view that President Lungu should appoint a very small committee of stakeholders preferably under two chairpersons, male and female to agree on the contents of the new draft Constitution and on the way forward. The committee should be given timeframe within which to conclude their work to avoid theCconstitution becoming an open-ended exercise,” Dr Mwaanga said.
Dr Mwaanga said Zambians should be ashamed that the new constitution-making process was still not completed 12 years after it began in 2003.
He said Zambians had been let down by leaders of successive governments who did not take the constitution-making process seriously stating that the country was stuck with the one-party Constitution which was inherited from the colonial government.
Dr Mwaanga said apart from the few amendments which had been made to the current Constitution through the Mvunga Constitution Review Commission, the country had remained stuck with a one party constitution in its democratic dispensation.
“I am convinced that progress is possible given the broad agreement which already exist among stakeholders on key issues such as the increased representation of women in Parliament and local councils, 50+1 percent for electing a President and a running mate clause which would eliminate the need for presidential by-elections. The current clause is outdated and expensive as it takes away financial resources from national development.
‘‘It is time for us to pay attention to our Constitution before the 2016 general elections,” Dr Mwaanga said.