The National Union for Small-scale Farmers of Zambia (NUSFAZ) would like to thank President Edgar Lungu and the PF government for bringing the constitutional discussion to some good end. We further would like to thank the Members of Parliament who made it possible for the President to have a bill that he would sign into Law.
As a mouth piece of small scale farmers we are aware that the debate on the constitution making process subjugated most other important activities in the nation. For example, very few leaders paid attention to the delayed distribution of inputs from districts to the farmers. Very few people paid attention to the fact that the rains are not good enough for the farmers to produce enough food for the nation, especially in the Southern parts of the country. Almost everyone concentrated on how the constitution should be adopted. Farmers and most rural people felt left out in the discussion because no one bothered to educate them on what the arguments were all about and what the outcome meant to the people. Yet when discussing the constitution making process, some organizations and politicians talked like they had been anywhere out there to consult the will of the people.
We now feel that those who championed the adoption of the constitution in one piece as they put it, did not really want the constitution to be adopted. It was not with the blind eye that they, with all energy wanted everything to be passed through a referendum. We think they knew well that it will be difficult to reach the constitutional requirement for 51% ‘YES’ vote to pass the new constitution. We further think they did not bother whether the majority understood what was contained in the renewed constitution or not. How did they expect one vote for a list of items without discussing such a list and only put a cross against a ‘YES’ or ‘NO’? Does that make any sense at all. How did they expect the Zambian people to come in large numbers to vote positively when very few people/organizations if any have been out to educate the people on the content of the desired constitution? We now know that the champions of the referendum route knew very well that the referendum should pass the items of consideration by at least 51% of the voters and that they did not expect to get such a vote when people had not been sensitized more so in the light of the fact that apart from the 1991 elections none of the past elections in this dispensation have garnered votes beyond 40% for a YES to any president. Even during the second wave of change in 2011 President Sata could NOT get a YES beyond 40%. We think these organizations planned that the referendum should fail to put in the most desired constitution in place. They were tactfully planning for failure because they did not want the so called ‘PEOPLE DRIVEN NEW CONSTUTION’. The same groups of people have continued fighting saying they needed a new constitution and not an amendment. Is it really feasible to have a new constitution totally different from an existing one? Or are these brothers and Sisters using semantics to ensure that the constitution debate goes on in the wrong direction? Not a single nation with an existing constitution may ever have a new constitution unless they overhaul and change all the words. As long as there is an existing constitution you can only have amendments to the constitution whether people driven or otherwise. Many clauses are definitely likely to remain the same even when there is total change in governance system. Let us turn our energy to ensure the government or the Elections Commission Zambia reveal to the nation what question we will be voting for or against so that we begin educating the masses what to vote for. A good thing has been done and it will go in history that President Edgar Lungu fulfilled one of his greatest of the elections campaign promises to give the people of Zambia a constitution containing what they desired. The route is immaterial.
Under the foregoing, we appeal to every well-meaning Zambian to accept the amendment to the constitution in these suggested stages that we can afford as a nation. It does not pay to just oppose because you are not in state house. We call for politicians to be Zambians and to contribute to the building of our nations. We have rarely heard these politicians give suggestion to government on how to solve the challenges we are going through as a nation. Rather they have been praying for the government to fail. Is that really normal? Should the Zambian people wait for these politicians to be in power in order for us to get sanity in management of our resources for development? Will Zambians be punished by the opposition to always wait for five years before they put their ‘good plans’ into play for the nation to develop? We doubt if these politicians really have a heart for Zambians whom they want to lead or they have a heart for their pockets and their pride. Let us take a leaf from other countries which are even developed for that matter. Once elections are over, the politicians work together for common good of the nation. The opposition simply offer checks and balances and plan positively together with the sitting government rather than pray for the failure for the sitting government. This does not mean mistakes by the government in power should be swept under the carpet. We appeal for a paradigm shift in manner opposition work: Let them offer written critiques and suggested solutions to sitting government against national challenges so that our nation develops. LET US LEARN TO SUPPORT THE GOVERNMENT OF THE DAY AND GIVE THEM ALL THE SOLUTIONS THAT WE MAY HAVE. Some of today’s solutions that opposition politicians keep for the time they hope to be in power, may not be relevant then. The situation may be totally different. So it is better these solutions are offered now. That is how Zambians will know that the opposition can offer good solutions and can lead us well if they were given authority to rule.
We would like end by reiterating Mandela’s response to those who criticized his positive attitude to Gadhaffi and Fidel Castro, that politicians should not make a mistake of thinking that their perceived enemies should be enemies of all Zambians. Our attitude as Zambians and as voters should be determined and move positively to sympathize with and vote for those who show positive attitudes and actions to the development of our great nation Zambia regardless of whether they are in opposition or kings of today.
Dr Frank M Kayula
Director General NUSFAZ