ALL roads lead to the National Heroes Stadium this afternoon where thousands of Zambians are expected to witness the historic assenting of the Constitution Amendment Bill by President Edgar Lungu which will usher in a new era for Zambia equal to the advent of the First and Second Republics.
After groping in the dark for nearly a decade trying to fashion a national framework that was to carry the aspirations of an ambitious nation in the form of a new Constitution, finally the moment of truth has arrived. Today Zambians of all shades of political opinion, economic status and ethnicity can pat themselves on the back and say, ’’We have done it at last’’.
Zambians maybe forgiven for dancing in the streets because of the signing of what appears to be a mere piece of paper. But this paper has gobbled hundreds of millions of Kwacha in the last 10 years in a desperate national effort to write a Constitution for Zambia which was variously described as people-driven, animal-driven or one which could stand the test of time.
At least three former heads of State tried and failed to achieve this elusive milestone. Wise men and patriots, some of the best brains this country has known, all poured their energies into this endeavour and drew a blank. It became a matter of grave concern that Zambia would never have a new Constitution.
It took the unlikely event of a Presidential by-election to produce the combination of a Cabinet and President who had the wherewithal to champion the realisation of this project.
No constitution anywhere in the world is perfect. No constitution is all-embracing. It is merely an attempt by a people, united in one cause, to produce a national semblance of one opinion which they will all respect and regard as their own.
This Constitution Amendment Bill may have gaping holes in it. Some Zambians may feel suppressed, ignored or left out completely. Others, although they proposed, seconded and supported many of the key clauses in it, have now spurned it because they are not the ones who had the opportunity to take it to Parliament. Others will never drink from the cup of their nemesis never mind how thirsty they may be.
But this Constitution, we believe, has the basic ingredients which Zambians can use to build a new nation and a bedrock of constitutionalism for posterity.
The 50 per cent plus one, running mate and Grade 12 academic qualification clauses are landmarks for the electoral process that will create a new Zambian democratic dispensation.
The new Constitution does not belong to any political party or government. It was conceptualised and designed by Zambians at provincial assemblies and national caucuses where every Zambian was given the opportunity to contribute, add something or shoot down something. It is the product of Zambians, by Zambians for Zambians.
It is the summarised and enhanced version of all the Constitutions Zambians have had from the Chona one-party State commission, through Mung’omba to date. This document is the product of a mammoth task that took years and incredible budgets to accomplish. At long last Zambians can look back with awe and say we have come a long way; and look forward with pride that we have achieved what we set out to do.
As the Zambian national anthem rings round the National Heroes Stadium this afternoon to usher in the new Constitution, men and women of goodwill will rise to the occasion and join the leadership in welcoming a new constitutionalised Zambian republic.
Indeed a moment of truth has arrived.