Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Wednesday June 27, 2007 [04:00]
It is becoming clear now that Levy Mwanawasa and his government have not shifted their position over the constitution review process. Levy still wants a constitution review process that is dominated by himself and that will give him an opportunity to give the Zambian people a constitution he wants. He still wants to leave a legacy over the constitution. Levy is still not interested in the Zambian people giving themselves a constitution they desire and deserve. His reasons for this may not be clear but what is beyond doubt is that he wants to be at the centre of this constitution review process and direct all the vital or key aspects of it.
And what appears to be a change of direction, a change of heart on Levy’s part doesn’t really amount to anything – nothing has changed.
There is a very cheap political scheme designed to marginalise and leave out the Oasis Forum from this whole process. No one should deceive himself or herself that the constitution-making process is a preserve of politicians.
If there is any process in which the politicians should play a very subordinate role is in the constitution review process. Why do we say this? We say this because the rock upon which a democratic government rests is its constitution – the formal statement of its fundamental obligations, limitations, procedures and institutions. The constitution of a country is the supreme law of the land, and all citizens, regardless of their positions or status, are subject to its provisions.
At a minimum, the constitution establishes the authority of the government, provides guarantees for fundamental human rights and sets forth the government’s basic operating procedures. This being the case, there is no way the constitution review process should be totally left in the hands of politicians, in the hands of those who want to run government. This will be tantamount to them giving themselves conditions of service which the people, the employers of all public servants, should be drafting and be handing down to their servants.
If there any who want to deceive themselves that this constitution we are trying to come up with will be one originating from the people, by the people, for the people, if it is left to Levy’s approach, it’s time they realised Levy is up to no good. If there is any process where no politician should be trusted, where Levy should not be trusted, it is this one – this constitution review process.
Firstly, Levy has demonstrated clearly that he does not trust anyone other than himself to take charge and direct this process. But he wants everyone else to follow him and trust him over this process. Levy is forgetting that people have faith only in those who have faith in them; people have trust only in those who have trust in them; and people are loyal only to those who are loyal to them.
This process is every day demonstrating to us how little our politicians have confidence in us, the people who vote for them. They would rather have us far away when they are making important decisions; when they are reviewing our country’s constitution.
Why should our politicians be scared, be so afraid of civil society representatives? If the process needs to be representative of all our people from various walks of life – not only those who are in politics – why are our politicians so eager to exclude the Oasis Forum? There is no political party in this country whose membership can come anywhere near the membership of the Oasis Forum. Just one affiliate of the Oasis Forum – the Catholic Women organisation – has more than one million members. Which of our political parties can boast of such a membership? Here we are just talking about one affiliate of NGOCC, a member of the Oasis Forum.
Our politicians, and everyone else in this country, knows very well that the Oasis Forum is involving everyone in the country in fighting for a new constitution that truly reflects and addresses the interests and aspirations of our people. We cannot rely on these elections that are often so fraudulent, twisted and falsified to produce the only representatives of our people for all purposes.
There are things our politicians can do for us and there are other things that we don’t want them to do for us, that we want to do for ourselves or through other representatives other than themselves.
The list of people Levy wants to participate in his constitution conference is not representative of the concentrations and character of our people; it is only representative of the result that Levy wants to achieve. It’s very clear that Levy wants to manipulate this whole process to address his own personal fears – real or imaginary.
And simply because Levy has got fears of what may happen to him when he leaves office then we should allow him to hijack, manipulate and dictate our country’s constitution review process? Yes, there are others who are so weakly constituted and will submit to anyone in power. But not everyone can be manipulated in this way; not everyone can be bribed in this way.
There will always be those who will be willing to defend their dignity and conscience; there will be those who will reject Levy’s manipulative and dishonest political schemes designed to help him dominate our country’s constitution review process. What the Zambian people don’t want is a constitution that is given to them as alms from anyone; they want to give themselves a constitution they desire – wrong or right, perfect or imperfect.
What Levy seems to be doing with this inter-party dialogue is to try and use it to come up with a white paper over the constitution. If the inter-party dialogue representatives start to pick the contentious issues in the document and discuss them outside the constitution conference, then they will be guilty of publishing a white paper which has been widely rejected by our people.
We often differ with Michael Sata, but over this issue, the issue of the constitution review process, we agree with him, especially over his decision to respect and accept the leadership of the people in this process. And this is what often distinguishes Sata from other politicians, that is his ability to sense and realise where the people are and what they are interested in.
Sata has quickly realised that the people are not interested in a constitution that is drafted or written by politicians and then imposed on them. We don’t think many people in the Oasis Forum are darlings of Sata but most of them will have little difficulty, if any, working with Sata over this process. And tomorrow, these same politicians who have no faith, no trust, no loyalty for the people will start to accuse civil society of having been compromised by Sata and working for him.
We don’t see any sensible person in civil society who will refuse to work with Sata if he honestly and consistently sticks to the line he has adopted over the constitution review process. And if Sata continues on this path, he is definitely going to enjoy a lot of public support. However, civil society should continue to be vigilant in whatever they do with our politicians because the great majority of them have proved unreliable and too opportunistic when it comes to power issues. And this includes Sata. But for now, Sata is on the right path.
Let us not forget that the constitution should always reflect the wishes and aspirations of the people; the constitution is at the heart of the nation-building process and people shall only be truly free when their constitution is people-driven. The constitution must be a medium that regulates human conduct in necessary matters concerning the common good.
Our advice to the Oasis Forum is: Continue with your programmes as if nothing has changed because indeed nothing has changed.