Saturday, June 23, 2007

I'll take on Levy over constitution - Sata

I'll take on Levy over constitution - Sata
By Brighton Phiri and Noel Sichalwe
Saturday June 23, 2007 [04:00]

PATRIOTIC Front (PF) president Michael Sata has declared that he will take President Mwanawasa head-on over the constitution-making process when they meet today during the political parties' presidents' meeting. Meanwhile Sata and UNIP president Tilyenji Kaunda have declared that they will dismiss the document of recommendations prepared by political parties' representatives at Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue (ZCID), which suggest that opposition parties were not in support of the constituent assembly and that the civil society had hijacked the constitution- making process.

In an interview ahead of the ZCID summit of presidents today at Lusaka’s Mulungushi International Conference, Sata said PF was ready for President Mwanawasa over the constitution-making process.
"I hope and pray that Mr. Mwanawasa will come and not chicken out," Sata said.

"We have been told that Mr. Mwanawasa does not want us to discuss the Constitution, but we shall force him to discuss this serious matter."

Sata said he would use the meeting to raise before President Mwanawasa the issue of uncaring Chinese and other foreign investors.
He said PF was disgusted with the manner in which foreign investors, the Chinese in particular, were treating Zambians.

Sata said he tried to invite the Chinese ambassador to discuss the matter but he refused, saying that they were enjoying the protection of President Mwanawasa.
"I wish to warn these Chinese investors to take a leaf from what is happening with Railway Systems of Zambia's concession," Sata said.

"I don't hate the Chinese but how they treat Zambians. We invited the Chinese to discuss the closure of Mulungushi Textiles, ill-treatment of Zambians at Sinazongwe coal mine and Chambishi mines."

On the ZCID document, Sata said the document was contrary to PF position on the constitution-making process.
When reminded that PF was represented at ZCID, Sata said: "ZCID board chairman is Katele Kalumba from the MMD and so we are not surprised to see such a document. We shall throw it out."

Sata said there was no justification for the politicians to fear the Oasis Forum because they were just telling the parties what they had failed to do.
"Why should we fear the Oasis Forum when the historical background of political parties is that they were all born from social movements?" he asked.
Tilyenji said he would stand by his party's position that the new constitution should be adopted through a constituent assembly.

"We have our own position and if the recommendations prepared for our meeting fall short of our expectation, we shall not adopt them," Tilyenji said.
"We gave advice in 2003 when we said that we support the CRC on condition that the new constitution will be adopted through a constituent assembly."
He wondered why government was dishonest and buying time over the constitution-making process.

Tilyenji declared that UNIP was in full support of the Oasis Forum's Red Campaign.
"We have always supported the civil society in the quest to improve the governance systems," Tilyenji said.

"And we shall work hand in hand with the Oasis Forum on the Red Ribbon. We will always be on the right side of the constitution making process."
According to sources among the parties represented at ZCID, the document to be presented before the parties' presidents suggested that political parties were not in support of the constituent assembly and that Parliament should be allowed to enact the new constitution.

The sources further disclosed that in the document, the parties observed that the civil society had hijacked the constitution-making process such that the politicians were marginalised in the composition of the constituent assembly.
"There is a feeling among the parties that the civil society had become more powerful than politicians such that in their submission to the CRC they did not take into account the role of political parties in the constitution making process," said a source who declined to be named.

United Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema said the government had failed to prudently utilise resources on the constitution reform process.
Hichilema said there was no need of winding over the constitution review process instead of enacting the necessary legislation to adopt the new constitution through a constituent assembly.

Hichilema said if the government's problem was the composition of the constituent assembly, they should raise the issue for them to find a solution.
"The constituent assembly is necessary and it must be tabled at the next sitting of Parliament," he said.

"We need a new constitution like yesterday and we should not allow frivolous issues to derail our agenda."

Hichilema said there was no need for a referendum on the constituent assembly because the exercise would gobble money that could be properly utilised to buy medicine in hospitals and build schools for children in rural areas.
He said there was need to distinguish leaders who could utilise national resources in an efficient manner from those who were wasteful.

Hichilema said Zambians should take responsibility and usher in a new leadership that could improve their country.

"The way government is proceeding on the constitution review process is that of being wasteful. There is no prudence in the utilisation of resources. Why spend maybe about K200 million on a referendum when people have already said they want the constituent assembly?" he asked.

Hichilema said politics was a service and that it should not be used as a retirement vacation.

He further supported the idea of funding political parties from state coffers. Hichilema said the people of Zambia should be involved in the bona fide political parties.
He said if other African countries were funding political parties, the Zambian government could also manage.

"We are not talking about extravagant spending. This is meaningful expenditure to make political parties professional. Let's start where problems start and we will then have a quality government," he said.

Topping the agenda of the presidents' meeting is the constitution and electoral reform processes and political party funding.

Other issues include ethical standards to govern inter-party relations and ensure internal party democracy, participatory decision-making, mutual respect with and among member political parties.

The programme also includes the promotion of good governance, transparency, probity and accountability within and among member political parties in Zambia and abroad.
The ZCID further considered empowerment of political parties to build both institutional and human capacities and to raise funds for their operations, raise funds from legitimate sources to support issues common to all parties as well as common national issues.

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