Thursday, February 21, 2013

A good constitution can eradicate poverty - Sikazwe

A good constitution can eradicate poverty - Sikazwe
By Kombe Chimpinde
Thu 21 Feb. 2013, 15:10 CAT

WOMEN for Change executive director Emily Sikazwe says a good constitution can eradicate extreme poverty and improve the country's governance system. And JCTR says Zambians must ensure that economic and social rights are enshrined in the country's constitution by going to a referendum.

Meanwhile, Lubansenshi independent member of parliament Patrick Mucheleka says economic problems in Zambia are a result of poor governance exhibited by governments over the years.

Speaking at a discussion forum themed 'The Zambia we want' organised by the Press Freedom Committee (PFC) of The Post in Lusaka yesterday, Sikazwe said it was only through the constitution that economic rights of all Zambians would be guaranteed.

She said coming up with a good constitution would ensure the interests of the minority in society were protected.

"In there (constitution), we will make sure the poor are protected in a country where we are saying economic growth is high… There is no one to blame, not any outsiders but ourselves," said Sikazwe. "I have a nephew in UTH who broke his leg. I have been going to UTH now for the last three weeks every day.

They failed to operate on him for two weeks because there was no oxygen and it is true there was no oxygen and this is endemic, it's not today's problem; it's been there all along. People sleeping on the floor… The issue is what is our collective vision?"

And Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) director Fr Leonard Chiti said participation of all Zambians in the constitution-making process was crucial in order to ensure economic, social and cultural rights and that this would happen through a referendum.

He said once this was achieved, resources made for poverty related programmes would be strictly administered and protected as government would be held liable for failure to provide the said rights.

"You can actually sue the government for failure to provide these rights, in the same way we can sue the government if they stopped having this forum that we are having now," Fr Chiti said.

He said the draft constitution currently has provisions for economic, social and cultural rights.

"These rights are rights such as the rights to education, the right to health, the right to food security, shelter, a safe environment but also, within the Bill of Rights in the draft, there are provisions for more rights for women, and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are more less associating with these economic and social rights," Fr Chiti said.

"In terms of MDG number one, which is alleviating extreme poverty, if you provide education, health, shelter, job, a clean environment and security, clearly this would go a long way in having the proportion of people living in extreme poverty reduced."

Fr Chiti said if the said rights were enshrined in the constitution, Zambia would be on course in meeting the MDGs by the 2015 target date.

And UN country coordinator Kani Wignaraja said there was still much that remained to be done for the country to meet the MDGs by 2015.

"Enrolment of pupils in primary schools, we have done very well. We have seen enrolment in secondary schools but close to a half of our children Zambia don't complete primary and even a larger number of that, don't even complete secondary," she said.

"The other fact that we have to consider is three Zambians; two of whom are girls, every hour are infected with HIV. Now although we are doing well on HIV prevalence and upping the ability of those who have not had access to treatment and care and counselling, on the other side of the spectrum is quiet alarming, that every hour three Zambians are newly-infected with HIV. These issues are fundamental that we have to ask ourselves as a nation where we are headed."
Wignaraja said there was little benefit in pointing fingers at each other on what has not been done.

Meanwhile, Mucheleka said the government should begin to exert its efforts on serious national priorities that can accelerate development.
"It is a question of how we set our priorities. What steps are we taking to ensure that we strengthen and enhance domestic resource mobilisation?" asked Mucheleka.

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