Saturday, August 11, 2007
By Brighton Phiri and Noel Sichalwe
Saturday August 11, 2007 [04:00]
Zambians should respond positively to President Levy Mwanawasa's call for dialogue, former FDD president Lt Gen Christon Tembo urged yesterday. And the Oasis Forum has petitioned the SADC heads of state to intervene in Zambia's current constitutional crisis to prevent the matter degenerating into anarchy and chaos, ahead of next week's summit.
Commenting on President Mwanawasa's call for dialogue on the constitution making process, Lt Gen Tembo said the President's position must be supported with the seriousness it deserves.
"If President Mwanawasa is calling for dialogue in good faith, it is a good thing for the country. He should be commended because there must be genuine desire for genuine dialogue of the country has to get rid of the current tension among citizens," he said.
Lt Gen Tembo said with a positive response to President Mwanawasa's call for dialogue, the acrimony and tension will disappear amongst stakeholders on the constitution making process.
"I urge all Zambians to support this call. We should not always criticise each other, even when someone means well. If Mwanawasa means what he is saying, let us all support him so that we can realise our desire for a people driven constitution."
Ptresident Mwanawasa on Thursday called for dialogue to afford people a forum for expressing and responding to specific issues of concerns on the constitution making process. He was speaking in Malaysia after attending the 8th Langkawi International Dialogue which he said emphasised on dialogue as an effective tool for addressing various challenges within and among nations.
And according to a petition signed by the Oasis Forum and the Collaborative Group on the Constitution (CGC) comprising of 13 civil society organizations, the Oasis stated that the summit should impress upon President Mwanawasa to commit himself and his government to do the people's will in the constitution making process in Zambia.
"That SADC form a special mission to intervene in the current constitution crisis in Zambia to prevent the matter degenerating into anarchy and chaos," the petition read in part. "That your summit recognizes the importance and need for President Levy Patrick Mwanawasa to first show leadership and humility over the constitutional making process in Zambia before he seeks to exercise similar moral authority in the constitutional issues of other member states."
The Oasis stated that the chairmanship of SADC which President Mwanawasa was going to assume carried important responsibilities that required the incumbent chairperson to exercise leadership in government first in the host country before extending the leadership to other nations. They noted that the civil society in Zambia wished to petition the SADC heads of state during the summit on important matters affecting the democratic governance in Zambia.
The Oasis stated that President Mwanawasa had appointed the Mung'omba Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) in February 2003 following a public outcry for a new constitution which should be people driven. They stated that pursuant to the term of reference number 22 of the Mung'omba CRC, the CRC was mandated to recommend the mode of adoption of the Zambian constitution.
The Oasis noted that in several addresses to the nation and statements, President Mwanawasa promised to abide by the CRC recommendations on the contentious mode of adopting the constitution. They observed that even the ruling MMD in its submission to the CRC dated September 24, 2004 also undertook to abide by the recommendations of the CRC on the mode of adoption of the constitution.
The Oasis indicated that the CRC toured all the 150 constituencies and visited other countries within the region and in Europe to conduct comparative studies. They stated that the CRC further engaged local and international experts to render advice on the mode of adopting the new constitution.
"The Mung'omba Constitution Review Commission was appointed against the backdrop of opposition from the Oasis Forum," the petition further read. "The Oasis Forum objected to the appointment of the Mung'omba Constitution Review Commission and refused to nominate representatives to sit on the Commission because the committee was appointed under the Inquiries Act and section five of that said Act renders all the work of the Constitution Review Commission a mere recommendation which previous presidents in the Republic of Zambia have refused to act upon."
The petition stated that on the basis of President Mwanawasa's pleas to trust him, the Oasis Forum members submitted to the CRC in protest. The petition also stated that in its final report to President Mwanawasa, the CRC submitted that a new constitution should be adopted through a constituent assembly followed by a national referendum and that Parliament should enact a constitution.
"President Mwanawasa and his government have now recanted their earlier repeated assurances to abide by the recommendations of the Mung'omba Constitution Review Commission and have now introduced a bill called the National Constitutional Conference Bill which is intended to be passed into law within the month of August before the Zambian Parliament adjourns sine die," the petition stated.
The Oasis noted that the provisions of National Constitutional Conference (NCC) Bill placed control of the Constitutional Conference in the President and the Minister of Justice to the extent that under sections two and 13(2) of the Bill, the adoption process was envisaged as ending with a mere recommendation to the Minister of Justice.
They stated this situation flew in the teeth of international constitutional making norm.
"The experience of progressive governments in the region who have successfully held their constituent assemblies or constitutional conferences needs to be shared with your brother the President of the Republic of Zambia," stated the petition.