Constitution Impasse


FINALLY we have some kind of roadmap on the constitution-making process from the Government.

It is not perfect, inclusive or indeed comprehensive, but it is a start from which any further discussion must emanate.  There are also a few housekeeping issues which the Government itself must deal with as a measure of confidence building for all the other stakeholders.

This includes harmonization of Article 77 of the Constitution which requires that for the Bill of Rights to be amended it requires the participation of more than 50 percent of the eligible voters, while the Electoral Act limits this to registered voters.  This lacuna must be resolved quickly.

Equally, the issue of contentious and non-contentious clauses must be exhausted in a forum that incorporates all the contending parties to the current process.

The Grand Coalition naturally feels uncomfortable by the lack of detail and would therefore wish that Government would be more transparent and expeditious to ensure that all players are on the same page.  We entirely agree with this position.

The draft Constitution has many issues that must be dealt with even before it goes to Parliament, among them are such commonsense items as  the issue of proportional representation which ideally will eliminate any future by-elections because candidates will come from a common list.

It is not clear if all parties will accept this proposition, hence the need for a final comprehensive review of the current draft to arrive at a consensus.

Another issue that many parties are opposed to is the provincial support required by a presidential candidate.  The present draft stipulates that a presidential candidate must raise 100 supporters from each Province effectively meaning that a candidate should truck 1000 candidates to Lusaka.  The cost and sheer logistics of such an exercise has already created controversy among the minor political parties which find this stipulation not only restrictive but highly discriminatory.  This requires immediate consideration.

There are even more fundamental issues touching on land acquisition that have attracted the anger and ire of traditional leadership who feel that Government is encroaching on their traditional rights by reposing all land in the President.

This is an issue that will not go away.  It must be resolved taking into account the realties on the ground including the fact that a lot of land has been given to foreigners who have acquired huge tracts and in the process depriving Zambians who must now squat on titled land.  This is unacceptable and yet it is not a matter on which Government can take a high-handed approach that totally disregards input from traditional leaders.

In essence therefore a lot of work still needs to be done before this draft Constitution goes anywhere near Parliament for legislation.  The sooner all parties put their heads together to hammer out a compromise document the better for the nation.  Otherwise we shall be mired in endless squabbles and differences.



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