Saturday, June 30, 2007
Saturday June 30, 2007 [04:00]
Dialogue and cooperation among our political parties and their leaders is welcome. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that sometimes people can dialogue and cooperate not necessarily for good reasons, but to do wrong. Crooks can dialogue and cooperate among themselves to crook others, to do wrong.
It is also possible for politicians and their political parties to dialogue and cooperate among themselves to deceive the people, to do wrong. Although we generally welcome dialogue and cooperation among our politicians and their political parties, we feel the agenda of the current dialogue going on among our politicians is full of political mischief.
We have always called for loyal opposition. And we believe that this idea is a vital one because it means, in essence, that all sides in a democracy should share the common commitment to its basic values and cooperate in solving common problems of the society. And this loyal opposition does not mean that the opposition should be loyal to the specific positions of those in government, but to the fundamental legitimacy of the state, and to the democratic process itself.
This doesn’t seem to be the agenda or aim of the on-going dialogue among our political parties and their leaders. What seems to be happening is that our politicians have decided to come together and cooperate with each other in usurping the power of the people to give themselves a constitution they desire and deserve.
There is nowhere in our constitution, or in any written law of our country, where it says that the constitution review process shall be carried out by political parties and their leaders or that it is a preserve of the politicians. As we pointed out yesterday, leaders should lead, but in the end the people must govern. But the people can only govern if they are allowed to come up with a constitution, to set the rules for how they should be led so that in the end it is them who govern.
Moreover, citizenship demands a positive contribution of everyone – and not only those in full-time politics or with positions in political parties – to building our nation’s future. And central to the people being able to govern is a good constitution, one that is really owned by the people. Unless the constitution review process is correct, a constitution that is owned by the people will continue to be elusive in this country.
There is no way a dialogue among our politicians and their political parties can be expected to give us a constitution that truly reflects the wishes and aspirations of our people.
All our constitutions – from the Lancaster constitution to the present one - have been a product of dialogue and cooperation among our politicians and their political parties. Our people want to depart from this approach to constitution review or constitution making process.
Our people have realised that they shall only be truly free when their constitution is driven by themselves. This is not to say those in politics have no role to play in this process. They have a role to play. But that role is not one of monopoly. Our politicians have not lost the right to belong to the category ‘people’.
They are still part of the people and that is why when we say a constitution review process should be people-driven we include our politicians as well; we don’t exclude them the way they want to exclude their fellow citizens who are not politicians. We say this because our politicians and their political parties alone cannot build and develop this country.
It demands the participation of all of us to develop and build this nation. And the constitution is at the heart of the nation-building process; it is a medium that regulates human conduct in necessary matters concerning the common good. And for this reason it cannot be left totally in the hands of our politicians, some of them very unscrupulous and corrupt ones.
It is very clear that the current dialogue going on among our political parties is not genuine and seeks to impose the partisan views of our politicians on the whole nation.
First, the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue is an organisation of politicians by politicians for politicians. There is no way this organisation can be taken seriously as an institution that should guide our constitution review process.
We don’t think even the donors who are funding them are right to do so for the purposes of them coming up with a constitution for our country. But there is a reason Levy Mwanawasa has decided to use them for this purpose and from nowhere give them great recognition and responsibility.
The man has tried everything to avoid a proper and well-constituted constituent assembly. After the Mung’omba Constitution Review Commission came up with the recommendation of adopting the constitution through a constituent assembly, Levy was uncomfortable and appointed a committee of individuals he has given jobs in the civil service as permanent secretaries to come up with recommendations.
He provided money and logistical support for them to do so. But when he realised that this was problematic, we now have the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue coming in to help him produce a white paper.
This is of course at a cost. When it comes to what Levy wants, money is never a problem; it is only a problem when it comes to a constituent assembly – an idea he has openly proclaimed he doesn’t like and will never support or vote for. It is very easy for Levy to get what he wants from this arrangement and that is why he has gone for it, as opposed to a constituent assembly where our politicians – who are generally easy to corrupt and manipulate – would not dominate.
There is no way Zambians should accept and tolerate this attempt by our politicians to hijack the constitution review process of our country. The role they have given themselves is an illegitimate one and if it means fighting all of them together, the people should collectively do so.
We therefore urge all civil society organisations to come together and oppose this corrupt attempt by our politicians to hijack and monopolise our people’s constitution review process. This is not partisan business; it is national business in which all people should participate freely regardless of their political persuasions, station in life or career.
Those who have chosen a political career should not think they have more rights and the monopoly of wisdom to give the rest of their fellow citizens a constitution. Some of them of course are very good people, very intelligent citizens and their participation in this process is desirable but they should do so in equality with other citizens – being politicians should not give them more rights than other citizens to participate in our constitution review process.
It is also clear that Levy’s constitution conference is not an equivalent of a constituent assembly. It is something very different that will never be an equivalent of a constituent assembly.
Those who seek a people-driven constitution for our country should not deceive themselves that Levy and his inter-party dialogue will give them such a constitution. They have no alternative but to struggle and ensure that people give themselves a constitution they desire through a properly constituted constituent assembly.