Saturday, January 24, 2009

Get involved

Get involved
Written by Editor

There is need for all Zambians to pay particular attention to the proceedings of the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) if this country is to have a constitution that will stand the test of time.We say this because it is clear that most of the men and women participating in the NCC are not representing the true feelings of our people on what they want included in this important national document, the constitution.

There are deliberate efforts, especially by politicians participating in NCC, to tailor the constitution according to their desire.

This is wrong and it should not be tolerated. These men and women should understand the role they are playing on the NCC. They are people’s representatives, not own representatives. So if our people do not monitor what their representatives are doing on the NCC, this country is destined to have another failed constitution.

We all know how important a constitution is to a country. In fact, constitutionalism, as we are told by scholars, is a modern concept which desires a political order. This means that people must be governed by law and not men. Constitutionalism stands for the supremacy of the law. It is also a body which would ensure fair play and an accountable government.

Constitutionalism also desires a political order in which government powers are limited. Constitutionalism means respect for fundamental human rights and more so for the concept of the rule of law.

It cannot be over-emphasised that it is only a good constitution that can promote democracy and the rule of law. And a good constitution will receive respect from all citizens. But this respect can only be given if citizens agree to the contents of the constitution. We have stated this before and we are repeating these words to remind our people of their obligations. This borders on the concept of the legitimacy of the constitution. A good constitution has to be legitimate.

And the legitimacy of the constitution is concerned with how it will command the loyalty, obedience and confidence of the people. Many constitutional governments collapse when citizens have no respect for the constitution. In such a case, the state will become an alien to its own constitution and also to the people. Such a state or constitution will be remote to people’s lives and their thinking.

To be understood and to be legitimate, a constitution must be respected by the people. But the people can only understand and give respect to the constitution if they participated in its making process. This means that the content and form which the constitution will take must be discussed by the people. A constitution born that way will have the respect of the people; people will be loyal to it. But a constitution imposed on citizens will command no respect from them.

That is why it is important for our people to keenly follow the proceedings of the NCC to ensure that only their aspirations are included in the constitution, not the aspirations of the few NCC delegates.

The various NCC committees have, for the past few months, been discussing a number of national issues. But looking at the way these discussions are being handled, and decisions made from such discussions, it is clear that if Zambians do not intervene in the process, this country is on a path to having another doom constitution.

We say this because Zambia has never known a constitution that stood the test of time. A good constitution must never change regularly. It should always remain to guarantee the values and aspirations of citizens.

This can be said about the United States’ constitution which has never changed since 1877, save for a minor change in Article 4. In many democracies, especially those in the West, constitutions have remained stable despite change of government. This is possible because such constitutions are never imposed on people.

If Zambians allow the few selfish and greedy NCC delegates to impose a constitution on them, the next government will be reviewing such a constitution because it will not be reflecting the desires and aspirations of the people. It will be alien to their lives.

But it should be noted that this process of writing a constitution for the country is very costly and should be avoided by making a constitution that will stand the test of time. From the first Republic through to our day, a lot of billions of kwacha have been spent in trying to make a good constitution. However, this has never been achieved because leaders impose their will on the people. Constitutions are always associated with particular leaders; the Kaunda constitution, the Chiluba constitution or the Mwanawasa constitution.

This is not as it should be. A constitution is a people’s document. The danger is that when a constitution is associated with a particular leader or administration, the next leader or administration will change it to suit their thinking and desires. This has to be brought to a stop. A good constitution should be able to outlive its makers.

Most of the suggestions and decisions coming from the NCC delegates are purely designed to preserve their narrow and selfish political interests; nothing to do with national interest.

It is not too late for all Zambians to actively engage in this process of constitution making because we are yet to go to the final stage. Our people can use this stage to throw out all decisions that have been made in personal interest and not national interest. It’s about time that Zambia made a constitution that will stand the test of time. Individuals should come and go but the constitution must live forever, for generations to come.



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