The Grand Coalition on the Campaign for a People-Driven Constitution (GC) says it is deeply concerned that the PF Government plans to adopt and enact the new Zambian constitution through parliament.
The Minister of Justice last week informed the National Assembly that the Government had decided to table during the next Parliamentary sitting all provisions of the draft constitution prepared by the technical committee on drafting the Zambian Constitution, except the Bill of Rights as per the provision of Article 79.
The Grand Coalition says it finds this parliamentary route treacherous as it provides the government with a platform to alter the character of the final draft constitution through parliamentary debates.
‘This will dishonour the interests of the people of Zambia who through local, regional and national consultation meetings submitted their desired content of the constitution and through similar platforms, validated the draft, said Coalition chairperson Fr Leonard Chiti
He said opening the draft to further debate in parliament therefore is a way of sabotaging the opportunity for realising a people-driven constitution because this parliamentary route exposes the people-driven draft to alterations and this is definitely against the will of the Zambian people.
He explained that taking the entire constitution to parliament is meant to make the public believe that the PF Government means well while its controlled parliament awaits upholding Cabinet and party position
and undo the people’s submissions.
Fr Chiti said the Grand Coalition opposes the parliamentary route for the following reasons:
- It takes away the democratic right of the people of Zambia to decide what kind of constitution they want for themselves through a referendum;
- It subjects the people’s aspirations to debate and alterations in parliament. With the numbers in parliament favouring the PF at this time, the parliamentary process will be under the control of the PF, thereby jeopardising any content that the people want if the PF are not comfortable with it
- It relegates the Bill of Rights to secondary consideration which should ordinarily be of primary consideration. The Bill of Rights remains the most important aspect of the new draft constitution as it directly affects the welfare of the people. Indicating that the Bill of Rights can wait is as good as telling people that, ‘your life and your welfare is not important and therefore can wait.’
He said the Grand Coalition therefore ‘sees great mischief in taking all the provisions of the final draft constitution minus the Bill of Rights to parliament and calls on the PF Government to refrain from selfish motives and consider the interest of the people who they claim to serve.’
‘The Grand Coalition equally calls on all well-meaning parliamentarians to read between the lines and see the mischief that lies in the move by the PF to take a parliamentary amendment route and, as true custodians of the interests of the people, do the right thing by opposing this route,’ Fr. Chiti said
Fr. Chiti said the Grand Coalition also calls on all Zambian citizens to speak out against this parliamentary route and demand that the PF Government respect the people’s interests by insisting on a referendum to adopt the new constitution, as it is the most democratic and people-driven route.
He said ‘the Grand Coalition hopes that the PF Government will take these concerns seriously’ and warned ‘that if the government does not refrain from such selfish manoeuvres, we will not
just sit and watch the people’s rights being undermined.’
He said the coalition ‘will continue to point out these injustices by the government against the same people who gave them the mandate to govern and mobilise all sectors of the society to do the same.’