‘Call Constitution indaba’

THE Government has been urged to call an all-inclusive Constitution indaba to create consensus and chart the course for the new Constitution.

YALI president Andrew Ntewewe said Government should remove the veil of secrecy surrounding the process of selecting the non-contentious issues from the draft Constitution to be tabled in Parliament for amendment.

He said there should be a general consensus on the non-contentious issues to be tabled by Parliament which could be via consultative workshops or seminars in order to have public participation in the process.

He said it would be pointless for Government to decide to take amendments to Parliament without any consensus with stakeholders.

Mr Ntewewe explained that the whole process would be derailed from being a people-driven Constitution if the voice of the people was ignored at any one level, especially at amendment stage.

Government’s decision to amend selected parts of the Draft Constitution without formal consultation with stakeholders was worrying, and the Grand Coalition on the constitution has rejected Government’s decision to enact the constitution in a phased manner, claiming that the constitution-making process has been sabotaged.

Meanwhile, Muhabi Lungu said Government’s decision to enact the new Constitution in a phased manner was the most reasonable position that should be supported by all well-meaning Zambians and political parties in the country.

But the Grand Coalition chairperson Leonard Chiti said the rights and aspirations of the people had been ignored owing to the lack of consultation, transparency, and accountability by the Government in the finalization of the Constitution.

Fr Chiti said the only article identified by the National Constitution Conference (NCC) as contentious were the recognition of the Barotseland Agreement of 1964 and the retention of the death penalty.

Fr Chiti called on citizens to rise to the occasion and reject the piecemeal amendment to the Constitution.

He said it was disheartening that the people’s voice had been “deliberately and maliciously obscured” by individuals and groups of individuals who wanted to benefit from a weak Constitution.

“Government has sabotaged the constitution-making process by adopting shortcuts and methods that have removed the people’s participation,” he said.

Fr Chiti said the proposed Constitution was not the property of Government.

He said the Constitution belonged to the people and it was the people’s power that was vested in the Constitution, adding that Government was therefore only mandated to listen to the people who owned the Constitution.

But Mr Lungu, who stands expelled from the MMD, said it was the position of the former ruling party to enact the new Constitution in a phased manner under which contentious clauses could have been subjected to a referendum.

Mr Lungu told the Daily Nation that in 2011, the MMD took a constitutional Bill to Parliament and that the process collapsed because the Patriotic Front (PF)  in the opposition at the time boycotted the process while the United Party for National Development (UPND) absconded.

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