THE hybrid process is arguably the most realistic chance to make meaningful changes to Zambia’s Constitution, United States Ambassador to Zambia Eric Schultz has said.
“I have stated in the past that it makes sense to pass some amendments to the Constitution through Parliament, those that appear to be non-controversial and broadly supported, such as ensuring Presidential succession to the Vice President in order to avoid a costly by-election like we saw in January.
“Afterwards, a referendum tied to the Bill of Rights can be linked to 2016 general election. Again, the perfect should not be the enemy of the good. A referendum might be preferable for passing all of the amendments but referenda are costly and this hybrid process is arguably the most realistic chance to make meaningful changes to Zambia’s Constitution,” Mr. Schultz said. He said although a referendum on the constitution-making process might be preferable for passing all of the amendments, it should be noted that referenda are costly. In a statement made available to the Daily Nation yesterday, Mr. Schultz however said constitutional amendments were vital to helping countries grow.
He however said it was up to the people’s representatives in Parliament to discern and execute the people’s wishes, adding that the process must be completely transparent and fully inclusive in order to maintain public confidence.
He observed that constitutional amendments were vital to helping countries grow over time and broaden protections for their citizens, especially multi-ethnic societies such as Zambia and the United States.
“But our bottom line is also that constitutions are foundational documents that should change infrequently and that such change must be consensual and fully transparent. In the U.S., we have a saying: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” That is perhaps a useful reminder as Zambia’s citizens consider whether to amend the Constitution through a referendum or through Parliament,” Mr Shultz said.
He said that the United States and Zambia shared much in common in respect of democratic heritage; peaceful changes of power; and distinction as voices for Constitutionalism.
Mr Schultz observed that the constitution had been a hot topic of debate in Zambia which needed to be addressed in a proper manner where the people had the final say.
“In the past, Zambia has used other mechanisms to incorporate broad citizen input. Most recently, through conventions during 2012 and 2013, diverse groups of Zambian citizens engaged in a consultation process to help create the Draft Constitution they have before them today.
“Now it is up to the people’s representatives in Parliament to discern and execute the people’s wishes. This process must be completely transparent and fully inclusive in order to maintain public confidence. We wish the Zambian people and their representatives well as they consider changes to the constitution,” he said.