Thursday, May 29, 2014

MMD and constitution
By Editor
Mon 06 Jan. 2014, 14:00 CAT

Acting MMD president Michael Kaingu is accusing the Patriotic Front government of muzzling the roadmap in the enactment of the new constitution. Kaingu is also accusing the Patriotic Front government of wanting to use its numbers in Parliament to enact draconian laws.

The record of the MMD on the constitution-making process is very bad. And if the leadership of the MMD had any sense of justice in their hearts, they would have serious difficulties speaking on this issue.

This is a political party which, for twenty years, failed to come up with an acceptable constitution. This is a party which, since coming into government in 1991, had been working on a new constitution. In 1996, after an expensive constitution review process, the MMD government of Frederick Chiluba made amendments to the Constitution in total disregard of the recommendations of the constitutional review commission it had initiated. They amended the Constitution, with the sole aim of barring Dr Kenneth Kaunda from taking part in the presidential elections of that year. No one had a say in the changes they made. Everything was simply decided by Chiluba and those close to him. They ignored all the public criticism of what they had done.

And since then, the MMD spent its last ten years in office trying to come up with another constitution. In between 2007 and 2010, the MMD government spent over K200 billion on the constitution review process but still failed to come up with a new constitution.

Today, these same MMD leaders want to put pressure on their friends who have just been in power for two years to come up with a new constitution. And they are not ashamed to demand that. What type of people are these? What type of reasoning do they have? Do they have any sense of justice or fairness in their hearts?

We have held four general elections under a constitution given to us by the MMD, that is in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011. In addition to this, we held a presidential by-election following the death of Levy Mwanawasa in 2008. The Patriotic Front, which is in government today, participated in four of these elections held under the MMD constitution.

The constitution the MMD is today pushing the Patriotic Front to change is their own document which they themselves enacted with their own hands but failed to change, ignoring all public demands to do so. What's wrong with these people? When will it be possible for them to act in a sincere, honest and fair manner - even for at least once in their lives?

There is need for a new constitution. This is not in dispute. But unrealistic demands and undue pressure should not be put by the MMD on the Patriotic Front to clean up their mess and come up with a new constitution. Let them take their time and do their work in a manner that takes into account their other obligations to the people of Zambia. They were not elected into government for the sole purpose of coming up with a new constitution. They have many other urgent obligations to deal with. This was not a priority matter for the MMD! Why should it be made the top priority of this government?

If at any stage there are limited resources, priority should be given to serving the lives of our people through the provision of adequate medical services and ensuring food security. The constitution has to compete for time and resources with the other national priorities. Important and necessary as it is, the constitution review is certainly not the priority issue number one of the great majority of our people.

If the great majority of our people were given an opportunity to choose between being given schools, hospitals and roads now and a new constitution tomorrow, they would certainly choose the former and not the latter. Of course, the constitution is a priority matter to those seeking power and realignment of forces. And for them, everything else is not important.

What matters to them is a new constitution that they think will facilitate their access to power. It is not even about what that constitution will do for the Zambian people. It is simply what it will do for them. Look at the constitutional clauses they are very much interested in: 50 per cent plus 1, running mate. It's all about power. You never hear most of the vocal ones talk about the economic rights of our people. They are not interested in that because it has no impact on their access to power.

We urge the Patriotic Front government and its supporters not to be swayed by noise but to rationally set its priorities in accordance with the needs and demands of the poor and the most diwsadvantaged of our people. We have a constitution now and the country has been governed by the MMD for almost fifteen years under this constitution. We see no reason why the Patriotic Front cannot be given time to manage and do things in an efficient, effective and orderly manner. Let them take their time and do things the right way and in the best interest of the great majority of our people.

The MMD is accusing the Patriotic Front government of wanting to use its numbers in Parliament to enact draconian laws. But it is the MMD that used its majority numbers in Parliament to enact draconian laws. The last MMD government used its numbers in Parliament to remove the offence of abuse of office from our Anti Corruption Commission Act. Can this be said to have been done in the interest of the great majority of our people? This was simply an abuse by the MMD of its legislative powers. And the same MMD government was trying to use its numbers in Parliament, with the support of its friends in UPND, to come up with statutory media regulation. We have no doubt that if the MMD had won the 2011 elections, we would today have a statutory media regulation regime. And we shouldn't forget that it is this same MMD that enacted a law just to fix one person - the law removing bail for motor vehicle theft. And today, they can preach to the Zambian people about their opposition to draconian laws! What type of hypocrisy is this? What type of dishonesty is this? What type of lack of shame is this? Are these the people we should listen to?

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