Monday, August 06, 2007
By Brighton Phiri
Monday August 06, 2007 [04:00]
ZAMBIA Centre for Interparty Dialogue (ZCID) approach on the constitution-making process is a failed piecemeal, Catholic Bishops have stated. In a pastoral statement signed by Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) president Archibishop Tresphore Mpundu, the Catholic Bishops observed that the approach suggested by ZCID would result in the tried and failed piecemeal approach which successive governments used.
"In light of the very clear popular recommendation coming from the Mung'omba Constitution Review Commission (CRC), we stand by the repeated demand of the people of Zambia for a new constitution, not an amended old constitution. This is the only way to avoid repeated attempts in future years to give us a good people-oriented
Constitution," read the Bishops' statement in part. "We feel that the approach suggested by ZCID will result in the tried and failed piecemeal approach that successive governments used to deal with recommendations coming from the Chona, Mvunga and Mwanakatwe CRCs. A comprehensive review will demand a new constitution, once and for all."
The Catholic Bishops disclosed that when they met President Mwanawasa recently, they reiterated their conviction that there shall never be a legitimate constitution unless the country had a document that was genuinely a product of a national consensus and inclusive of all social groups.
They stated that the truth was not being seen to be served as required in the constitution-making process.
"The Catholic Church in Zambia has rich history of speaking out on important national issues going back to the pre-independence days. We have consistently spoken about issues touching on political and economic justice, national elections, development,
HIV/AIDS, women and constitutional issues. Our speaking out comes from the firm belief that it is our prophetic duty to do so in order that people may have that fullness of life promised by our Lord and Saviour ( John 10:10). After all it was Christ himself who gave to his disciples the mandate to go out to the whole world to proclaim good news to all creation (Mark 16:15)," read the pastoral statement. "It is in this historical context that
this intervention on the current constitutional issues must be seen. We have said time and again that we are non-partisan. Our concern is always to ensure that such fundamental values and principles as the truth, love, social justice and the common good are effectively served in our governance systems. We now feel compelled to speak out once again so as to give further clear guidance to the nation. The people of Zambia have the right to know where we Catholic Bishops stand on the constitutional process and content.
This is especially true in the current context where the truth is not being seen to be served as required."
The Bishops observed that the term "road map" had lost its true meaning regarding authentic constitutional reform.
The Bishops stated that a road map served as an important role in the constitution-making process by pointing out the necessary steps that ought to be taken.
They stated that politicians or groups of one brand should not design a road map, but that it should come from the people themselves.
The Bishops stated that history showed that politicians desired to adopt constitutional amendments that only served their short-term political interest.
"Unfortunately, we have the bitter experience of the Chona, Mvunga and Mwanakatwe CRCs. Who would deny the fact of such a biased process relating to the three CRCs?" asked the Bishops. "According to our traditional Zambian wisdom and practice, all
serious issues are to be thrashed out in a wide group, representative of different opinions and view points...otherwise there is a danger that a wise decision will not be reached and that the decision will not be accepted by the people."
The Bishops stated that participation in the constituent assembly or constitutional conference should not be dominated by any interest group, political parties, civil society organisations or government officials.
"We there fore urge a clear public scrutiny of the participants list before it is approved. And we also join our voice to those who are calling for patriotic sacrifice by the participants who should serve on the basis of sponsorship by their own organisations so as to reduce overall costs," read the pastoral statement.
The Bishops demanded the entrenchment of fundamental human rights such as right to education, health care, food and adequate housing in the Bill of Rights as demanded by Zambians.
They stated that there was need to apply the electoral reforms which demanded the return of the 50 per cent plus one winning margin for the presidential candidate as suggested by the Electoral Reforms Technical Committee (ERTC).
The Bishops called for the reduction of the presidential powers, separation of powers, removal of district commissioners' offices because they only served at the pleasure of the appointing authority.
They called for the constitutionalisation of Auditor General, Inspector General of Police offices, Drug Enforcement Commission and Anti-Corruption Commission.
The Bishops demanded the establishment of a constitutional court, which could handle both human rights cases and electoral issues.
The Bishops called upon the Catholic faithful to study their statement in their Small Christian Communities in order for them to understand what was at stake.
"We encourage our people to call on their local members of parliament to come before them to fully explain to them how they will represent them on these constitutional issues if and when they come up in Parliament," the Bishops stated. "In order to promote the public dialogue so very necessary at this moment, we will instruct that this
ZEC statement be read in all Catholic churches on 12th August 2007, the second Sunday of August. Moreover, we will provide translations of the statement so that our faithful have easy access to it. And we instruct all our church-sponsored community radio stations throughout the country to broadcast the statement at least once a day during the first two weeks of August. It is our fervent prayer that the God of justice will continue to bless this nation and guide us to come up with a
constitution that really serves the best interest and common good of all Zambians in the many years to come. May we be faithful to the call of justice and peace that our Lord Jesus has sent us out to share with all the peoples," read the Bishops' statement.