Saturday, December 15, 2007

Turn NCC into a people's tool

Turn NCC into a people's tool
By Editor
Saturday December 15, 2007 [03:00]

There are few disadvantages in this world that one cannot turn into a triumph if one has the iron will and necessary skill. As long as one has an iron will, one can turn misfortune into advantage. After all, it is said that losing a battle is not losing a war. It is clear to us that the battle against the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) has been lost. But this is not the end of the war, of the struggle for our people to give themselves a constitution they desire, one which meets their aspirations. There is still a great chance within the framework of the NCC for our people to triumph.

President Levy Mwanawasa thought he had things his way when he single-handedly set up the Constitution Review Commission and personally appointed every one of its commissioners. In doing so, President Mwanawasa thought in this way, he was assured of getting the recommendations he desired. But things didn’t turn out that way. The people we thought were stooges and would totally work for President Mwanawasa and give him all that he desired, turned out to be true representatives of our people. They came up with recommendations and a draft constitution which made President Mwanawasa turn his back on them and their recommendations.

It was proved that no power in this country can stop Zambians from giving themselves a constitution they desire if they are determined to do so. But we shouldn’t forget that there was a lot of militancy around the constitution at that time which made members of the Constitution Review Commission realise the need to serve the people and not the appointing authorities. We also learnt that only through hardship, sacrifice and militant action can our people be in a position to give themselves a constitution they desire and deserve.

It is still possible that those going to serve on the NCC may not betray the wishes of the people. They can also be made to realise the fact that obligation to the people takes precedence over loyalty to the appointing authorities, to an individual, to a political party or indeed to the government of the day.

Clearly, those who are ready to join hands can overcome the greatest challenges. There is need for those who have registered to serve on the NCC to come together and do like what those who served on the Constitution Review Commission did. They were also paid a lot of money by this same government, under this same President, but they knew where the money came from – the people – and maintained their supreme loyalty to the people.

The money that has been paid or is going to be paid to members of the NCC is taxpayers’ money, it is not President Levy Mwanawasa’s money, it is not the MMD’s money. Therefore, they should take the money that the taxpayer has provided and work for the taxpayer and at all times serve the interests of the taxpayer. The problems are such that for anybody with a conscience, who can use whatever influence he or she may have to bring about a constitution that meets the people’s desires and aspirations, it’s difficult to say no.

Let it never be said by future generations that indifference, cynicism or selfishness made us fail to give our country a constitution it deserves. Bad desires or intentions by President Mwanawasa or indeed any other person or organisation can be defeated if those who have registered to sit on the NCC are determined to do good, to do that which the people desire. For this reason, it will not be harmful – at this stage – for anyone to sit on the NCC and ensure that the defeat they suffered over the Constituent Assembly is avenged, is reversed.

The NCC can be used as a tool manufactured by those with ill or selfish intentions but used by those with the best of intentions to deliver a constitution that meets the aspirations of our people. How many times have our people fought battles and won using the tools or weapons created by the enemy? Similarly, institutions created for wrong things can be used for the legitimate struggles of our people. But this requires a high sense of maturity, patience and humility on the part of those trying to champion popular causes.

Staying away from the NCC is not a matter of principle, it is political expedience in the quest for control of the constitution review process. This being the case, it would be wrong to elevate it to the level of a matter of principle that cannot be negotiated. Political tactics can be changed anytime in the light of changing circumstances. Since 1996, the country has been governed under a constitution that was drafted and enacted under the thumb of one tin-pot dictator. And this is still our constitution today.

If we let the MMD and its government decide everything freely at the NCC, we are more or less bound to get a similar constitution. We therefore urge our people not to look at those who have gone to sit on the NCC as political mercenaries – yes, some of them may be mercenaries but even mercenaries can be used for legitimate causes with a bit of tact. After all, that is why they are called mercenaries because anyone can use them. What will be needed is for civil society and all other progressive forces to mount ceaseless militant actions and put pressure on the NCC to do what the people want them to do or expect them to do and not to pander to the whims of those in government.

They should be made to act in accordance with the needs and wishes of the masses of our people. And everything done for the masses must start from their needs and not from the desire of any individual, however well-intentioned. There are two principles here: one is the actual needs of the masses rather than what we fancy they need, and the other is the wishes of the masses, who must make up their own minds instead of our making up their minds for them. Their duty should be to hold themselves responsible to the people.

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