Saturday, February 22, 2014

'Zambia not likely to have people-driven constitution'
By Prince Chibawah in Mansa
Sun 01 Dec. 2013, 14:00 CAT

ZAMBIA will not have a people-driven constitution because politicians have tried to draft a constitution that protects their powers and guarantees abuse of office, says FDD spokesperson Antonio Mwanza.

And Mwanza has charged that the government's failure to provide leadership and social benefits to the people is due to the current 'weak Constitution'.

Speaking on Mansa's K FM radio on Wednesday, Mwanza said the country was not likely to have a people-driven constitution because majority citizens had left the constitution-making process in the hands of the politicians.

"Since 1973, we have had a lot of constitution-making processes. We had the Chona Constitution Commission, the Mvunga Constitution Commission, the Mwanakatwe Constitution Commission, the Mung'omba Constitution Commission and now the technical committee constitution reform. All these five constitution commissions have not resulted in a people-driven constitution, for the simple issue of politics having taken precedence of our common sense. Politicians have tried to draft a constitution that protects their powers and guarantees the abuse of office, guarantee excessive powers. They do not want to draft a constitution that gives the ordinary citizen ultimate power to provide checks and balances to the elected officials," he said.

He noted that successive constitution-making processes had been politically driven and that the content had also not been protected.

"…and the history of this country from 1964 is that we have been dealing with the issue of a constitution. It's paramount to state that the Constitution we are using in this country is a constitution which was handed over to us in the United Kingdom in 1963. Hence it was formulated, drafted, signed, sealed and handed over to the people of Zambia by the British government. It still represents the one party mentality, the one party laws, the one party regulatory system," he said.

"A constitution can only be as good as the people want it to be, meaning that what people want is what makes a good constitution. If 80 per cent or majority of what the people are asking for is present, then that is a good constitution. But if the majority things that people are aspiring to see in the constitution are not there, then that is a bad constitution."

He added that the submissions of the Zambian people towards the constitution-making process had always been consistent and they had now grown tired of submitting same things.

"They (citizens) have always asked for a majoritarian president. They have asked to have a 50 per cent +1 clause. They asked to have Cabinet outside Parliament. They consistently asked to have a running mate, they asked to enhance the role of Parliament as a watchdog institution. They have also asked for the independence of the Judiciary and the Electoral Commission of Zambia. The independence of the Attorney General's office, the independence of the Auditor General's office, the institutions of governance," Mwanza said.

"The people of Zambia understand that power should be entrusted in institutions and not individuals. Because if institutions of governance are more powerful, then we know we are safe and secure. It's very dangerous to entrust powers in a man born of a woman. That's why people have been submitting that they need governance institutions to have supreme powers over man."

Mwanza said there was need to respect the constitution-making process by only including the wishes of the majority citizens in the final copy of the constitution.

"A constitution is a very important document in any society where people live. And we know that a constitution is a document of the land that spells out the values, aspirations of the people of a particular land that they have.

This is why if we want a government that is properly balanced, the Executive that has no excessive powers, powers which they can easily abuse; if we want to have a Legistrature that is proactive and representing the people's wishes, making laws that are relevant to bring development to its people at the grassroots; if we want a Judiciary that can be a panacea of justice, Judiciary that can ensure fairness, a Judiciary that everyone can be looked upon without a face that the law can be actually blind, then you need to have a constitution that epitomises the aspirations of the people," he said.

Meanwhile, Mwanza said the current Constitution was feeble, resulting in the government's failure to provide sustainable development to the people.

"The government's failure to provide leadership and ensure we secure these minerals that the Chinese and other foreign countries are looting from our mines is because of a weak Constitution we have. The failures by us as a people to hold our leaders accountable is because of bad laws we have. We have people that have been stealing from this country, looting government coffers, and they have walked to freedom because the laws we have are so weak that we cannot prosecute them. Today, we have court cases that are academic because the laws we have cannot guarantee the conviction of a former head of state," he said.

Mwanza asserted that the government had continued to abuse powers and national resources due to feeble laws.

"Today, we have a government that has continued to abuse people's rights, a government which continues not to adhere to the people's rights. People are jailed without the due process of the law. We have a government which is now picking up people from their homes and put them in jail without possible trials and later on the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions), in his famous ruling, goes for nolle prosequi as he has always been doing, because we have weak laws in the country. The people's development cannot be guaranteed," said Mwanza.

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