Thursday, December 20, 2007
By Brighton Phiri
Thursday December 20, 2007 [03:00]
Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa yesterday urged the National Constitution Conference (NCC) delegates to produce a document that would be accepted by the next president because a ruling party and president come and go. And the NCC yesterday commenced its sittings at Mulungushi International Conference Centre with the delegates intense campaigning for the chairmanship of the conference.
Addressing the delegates, President Mwanawasa said the conference was a solemn and privileged responsibility, which should be discharged by all the delegates in a very responsible, objective, non-partisan and patriotic manner, bearing in mind that the nation's interest was paramount in the exercise.
"This exercise is not about opposition political parties versus MMD and its government or opposition political parties, certain churches and civil society organisations versus Levy Patrick Mwanawasa," President Mwanawasa said. "If we approach this task with such attitude then we will hurt the national interest because ruling parties, governments and Presidents come and go. We must make a document which will stand the test of time, a document which any government or President will find acceptable to work with and a useful guide in the discharge of national duty, a document which will protect the rights of the people, individually and severally."
President Mwanawasa said people should not be complacent that they would always have a government, which would allow them the freedom of criticising it.
"There is a chorus in the lenje language which says...Nakasha kolya koinuka...which is a warning to a duiker or an impala that she should not always graze looking down but she should graze and stoop from time to time," President Mwanawasa said. "It is healthy to constructively criticise the decisions of government but dissent must be reasonable and should at all times avoid to be malicious."
President Mwanawasa said he did not understand why some sections of the community raised vexatious dissent and criticised the allowances allocated to the NCC delegates when they initially objected to government's argument that it was expensive to adopt the new constitution through a constituent assembly.
President Mwanawasa said the fact that one or two political leaders, some civil society organisations and a major church subsequently raised their objection to the NCC Act demonstrated the ideology that was emerging in the country that suggested that if the process was led by a mass political party, it was not acceptable.
"It must be legitimised by the instruments of civil society organisations (the church and some political leaders) for it to be acceptable. This is a negation of democracy," President Mwanawasa said.
He said he was anxious to see the conference come up with an acceptable document, which would meet people's aspirations and desires.
He urged the NCC delegates to consult their respective constituents extensively and ensure that the views and concerns of the people whom they represented were taken into account as the conference deliberated.
Among the names being floated for the position of NCC chairperson were Lusaka lawyer Dr. Patrick Matibini and FDD vice-president and Chasefu member of parliament Chifumu Banda.
Some of the delegates engaged in secretive campaigns in favour of their respective candidates.
According to the initial programme as outlined by the convener of the meeting Justice minister George Kunda, the delegates were yesterday scheduled to be addressed by someone from the Electoral Commission of Zambia on the electoral issues. Kunda said the electoral briefing would be followed by nominations for the positions of NCC chairperson and spokesperson.