Before some stakeholders praise or condemn the new Amended Constitution, it’s important to understand the brief background of the current amended constitution; and to specify the clauses which invite praise or condemnation. Above all, understanding what democracy is would facilitate either praising or condemning the current amended constitution.
Firstly, it should be remembered that most of the clauses in the current Amended Constitution were products of submissions to various Constitutional Review Commissions (CRCs).
Among other democratic clauses submitted to CRCs were 50 per cent plus one vote of the total votes cast for a winning republican president; and that the running mate to the winning president should be the vice president.
Most citizens, professional bodies and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) made such submissions to various CRCs.
When the first Draft Constitution was presented to Zambians, the government under former president, late Levy Mwanawasa (MHSRIP) constituted a National Consultative Conference (NCC); instead of the preferred Constituency Assembly(CA). However, the composition of the NCC was like that of CA. The NCC comprised representatives from various stakeholders such as professional bodies, trade unions, traditional leaders, civil servants, lawyers, the clergy, members of Parliament, etc.
From NCC’s Draft Constitution, former president, late Michael Sata(MHSRIP) also appointed a Technical Committee to consider what the NCC resolved; and presented a Draft Constitution to Zambians.
As a result, for many years, government spent colossal sums of taxpayers’ money on this constitution-making process. Among others, remember how much money was spent on NCC.
When the Draft Constitution was published and circulated to Zambians, many citizens, professional bodies, CSOs and some clergypersons commended government for including people’s wishes in the Draft Constitution. As a result, individual citizens, political parties and other stakeholders described the Draft Constitution as leading to ‘a people-driven constitution.
But when the current Rainbow Party leader, Wynter Kabimba was PF government’s justice minister, he made little or no effort in ensuring that such a Draft Constitution which contained aspirations of many Zambians was enacted as a republican constitution. Mr Kabimba neither facilitated such democratic clauses to be legislated in amended constitution form nor did he facilitate adopting the whole Draft Constitution through a referendum; and then enacted into supreme law of the land.
Delays in enacting such a promising people-driven Draft Constitution which had a protracted constitution-making process for almost a decade disturbed many governance stakeholders.
To ensure that such a democratic Draft Constitution is finalized as soon as possible, for January, 2015 presidential by-elections, Grand Coalition on the constitution forced each aspiring presidential candidate to sign a social contract to commit oneself that when he or she wins the stated presidential by-election, from the promising Draft Constitution, one would give Zambians a people-driven Constitution. The Grand Coalition threatened to de-campaign any presidential candidate in the stated by-election who won’t sign such a social contract.
Consequently, many opposition party presidential candidates; except PF presidential candidate, Edgar Chagwa Lungu signed such a social contract. It is assumed that the Grand Coalition de-campaigned Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s presidential candidature in the stated presidential by-election.
Interestingly, the people of Zambia still voted for Edgar Chagwa Lungu for Zambia’s presidency in the January 20, 2015 presidential by-election.
And when the Constitution Amendment Bill was in National Assembly, the members of Parliament who represent Zambian masses supported the Constitution Amendment Bill.
But what is an interesting reaction to this amended constitution is: firstly, even when it was in draft form; and many stakeholders described it as ‘promising a people-driven constitution’, the ordinary Zambians were quiet; and busy with their day-to-day activities. And secondly, when National Assembly passed the Amendment Constitution Bill; ready for the republican president to assent or veto it, very few Zambians; including Heritage Party leader, Brig. Gen Miyanda petitioned President Lungu not to assent to the Amended Constitution Bill. Even now that the amended Constitution Bill is assented to, many Zambians are still quiet; and busy with their normal activities in a peaceful manner.
In short, many Zambians who made such submissions are happy that President Lungu has respected Zambians’ wishes in the Amended Constitution.
This confirms former American president, Abraham Lincoln’s definition of democracy as ‘a government of the people by the people for the people’.
Therefore, who are those who are saying that the whole amended constitution should be rejected by Zambians representing?
Mr Kabimba and few others say the Amended Constitution is a party document which violates human rights; and meant to bring back one party state in Zambia. Why? How? Which specific clauses have transformed it from a promising Draft Constitution to one which is violating rights of Zambians? Which specific clauses in the amended constitution have made some stakeholders lose appetite; and cry foul against the much awaited people-driven constitution for Mother Zambia?
Suppose President Lungu didn’t assent to such a bill, what would the same people denouncing the amended constitution have said? If President Lungu didn’t give Zambians a people-driven constitution of any form before August 11, 2016 general elections, what would the opposition parties and the Grand Coalition have said about President Lungu and his PF government?
Look here! If today we say: ‘We want a people-driven constitution’ Then, government appoints a CRC for citizens and other governance stakeholders to submit their views to such a constitution. And when respective views are documented in the Draft Constitution, we say: This is what we wanted. This is a people-driven draft constitution. Now enact this Draft Constitution into a people-driven constitution.’ But when Parliament and the republican president enact such a Bill into Amendment Constitution, we say: ‘No! This isn’t a people-driven constitution.’
Some foreign investors might think that something is funny with some Zambians. They might think that we don’t know what we are doing on constitution-making process.
The only problem that the amended constitution seems to pose on some political parties and their over ambitious presidential candidates is that most democratic clauses in the current constitution seem to disqualify them from aspiring for republican presidency now and forever.
One can argue that it’s the nature of some opposition parties and the personalities of their respective leaders; not the current amended constitution which disqualifies such parties and their leaders; and in the process, might bring one party state in Zambia.
Therefore, those who are against the current people-driven constitution for personal vested interests aren’t embarrassing President Lungu and his PF government; but they are disgracing themselves; and insulting the Zambian people who submitted such clauses; and who are happy with such an amended constitution.
Any objective; and therefore, fair analyst would argue that the PF government through His Excellence, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu has done the best for Zambia by giving Zambians the much awaited people-driven constitution.
But, this doesn’t mean that the amended constitution is 100 per cent perfect for all governance stakeholders and the Zambian situation. As stated in a previous article, no republican constitution world over has catered for all stakeholders’ interests and concerns.
And the current Zambian amended constitution is one with some limitations; and therefore, attracting observations from few Zambians and few institutions.
For political leaders who claim to be popular in all regions, such a constitution catapults them to State House on August 11, 2016. But to those who have been political jokers by claiming that they are popular in all regions while not; they might cry foul with this amended constitution because they might not qualify to stand as republican presidents under such clauses.
The negatively affected parties and their respective presidential candidates should console themselves by saying: ‘Every contest has ground rules; no constitution addresses the interests and concerns of everyone or else no constitution could be in place in all countries.’ Soothe yourselves further by saying: ‘In democracy, although they can be perceived to be wrong, the majority rules.’
Respect Zambians’ wishes on the current Amended Constitution. And on August, 2016, registered voters should reject political parties and their presidential candidates who condemn such a people-driven constitution because if such presidential candidates are elected into presidency, they might be more dictatorial; and might reverse all the democratic clauses in the current amended constitution. We cannot be moving forward and backwards on constitution- making processes.
Therefore, by President Lungu assenting to the Amendment Constitution Bill, Zambia has made remarkable strides in having a people-driven amended constitution.