Full statement on the Constitution making process by Grand Coalition

The Grand Coalition’s Position on the Constitution Making Process in Zambia

PRESS STATEMENT

23 April 2014, Kampingila House, Lusaka

Dear Colleagues,

We welcome you all to this briefing at which we want to state the position of the Grand Coalition over the Constitution review process against the backdrop of various events and statements seen over the last few weeks.

We note with sadness the conflicting statements made by the Executive which do not address the earnest demands of the people of Zambia to categorically release the second draft Constitution. It has become very clear now that the position of the State over the issue of the Constitution is one devoid of the seriousness required to provide a new Constitution to the Zambian people. The experiences of the past few weeks speak for themselves on this matter.

The Grand Coalition is also extremely disheartened at the increasing levels of intimidation and police harassment under the PF rule whenever people with divergent views stand up to demand for their rights or when the demand accountability from their elected leaders. The Police have continued to be used to gag citizens’ right to free assembly and expression without shame or remorse. They have continued to selectively apply the Public Order Act favoring those in power and disfavoring the opposition views. The intimidation suffered by all fellow patriotic compatriots at the hands of State institutions that should protect them in promoting transparency and good governance has not spared the church and communityradio stations. We would like to offer our solidarity to these stakeholders and many more that continue to receive threats for standing out to provide solace and voice to the common man and woman that may not have the medium and space to air their voices on the Constitution. We are aware that some colleagues who participated in the organisation of the recent Prayer service in Chipata are fearing for their lives after being harassed for simply facilitating the people’s voice calling for a new constitution.

We particularly wish to throw our weight and support behind Bishop George Lungu of Chipata Diocese for his courage to reveal his interaction with the republican President HE Michael Sata on the phone. Indeed, it takes a man of courage to reveal such incidents to the public. Bishop Lungu, we salute and feel greatly humbled by your patriotism. At the same time we wish to condemn comments attributed to the President in the said telephone conversation which border on threats to the Bishop’s life. Those comments if true are patently unchristian in a supposed Christian nation and clearly go against the recent rhetoric of ‘unity and consensus building’ as we head towards our Jubilee celebrations. We are mindful that there are many more in the Church and elsewhere that continue to suffer silently through these orchestrated threats and earnestly extend our prayers of solidarity to them all.

We further condemn the harassment suffered by the youths from Action-Aid during the Youth Day celebrations for just wearing T-shirts with inscriptions demanding for the immediate release of the final draft Constitution. We also note with sadness the degenerating and continued harassment of opposition political leaders and in particular the incident involving President Hakainde Hichilema in Ndola recently. We condemn that behavior in the strongest of terms and urge the state to allow all people, regardless of their political affiliation, to exercise their rights to free expression and assembly.

We believe that Fifty years after independence, what we have seen lately takes us back to to the era of the stone age, to the days of Welensky. Surely country men and women, we need to have something to show as a country after so many years of independence. Violence is the least of those things, it is archaic. It exhibits leaders’ failure to reason and use their wisdom.

As for ourselves and other patriotic Zambians, we find ourselves rather ironically being referred to as “yappers” who should be ignored, all because we stand for justice and truth for all Zambians. There is pride in undertaking such defining ‘yapping tasks’ on behalf of a majority of a people that God has given the virtues of peace and humanity. We feel indebted to continue ‘yapping’ because our message on the Constitution is undoubtedly hitting hard and finding its mark across the stretch of the entire country through our dedicated and well networked membership. We urge the President to simply come clean and observe a fundamental cornerstone of the 10 commandments: Thou shall not lie. We urge the President to heed the people’s call: release the final Draft Constitution now.

The Grand Coalition reiterates its firm belief in the strong linkage between good governance and social, economic and political prosperity. This is one reason we are strong advocates of the expansion of the Bill of Rights in our Constitution. The current ‘functional’ Constitution of Zambia is a fountain for bad governance. With bad governance comes lack of accountability and transparency. With the lack of accountability and transparency comes corruption, recklessness, arrogance, poverty, joblessness, price hikes and a general degradation in the well-being and freedom of a people. These ills and many more are what compelled the Patriotic Front government to invest huge resources into the Constitution review process because they wanted to put more money in people’s pockets and address the high levels of poverty through correcting the glaring deficiencies of the current functional Constitution.

The Grand Coalition resolutely believes that the noble task of delivering a people-driven Constitution is now just before dawn and if His Excellency the President exercises his full commitment to the 10 commandments as he did when he took office, he will do the right thing, he will deliver the second draft Constitution now. We believe that this courageous action will help raise the popularity rating for the Patriotic Front government particularly as we begin the countdown to the 2016 tripartite elections. Based on our interactions on the ground, we have noted with concern that the perception of the current governments’ political will to deliver on their campaign promises in their manifesto is at an all-time low.

In this regard,the Grand Coalition proposes that the country celebrates the golden jubilee of our independence with renewed hope and liberty associated with a new Constitution, a Constitution that would ensure political, economic and social freedom. Our firm belief is that with a flawed ‘functional’ Constitution, there is no guarantee that Zambians will have food on the table, neither is there any guarantee that they will have jobs, safe drinking water or even medicines when they are sick. A new constitution is the best gift we can receive in this Jubilee year.

Dear Colleagues, unless we stand up and defend our rights, no one will do it for us. Remember that God did not give us the spirit of timidity but courage, as a Grand Coalition we religiously receive this gift. We must all defend our rights. History still tells us that mighty armies and dictators have been defeated by the people’s collective wisdom and energies once they get resolved to defend what belongs to them. Going forward, the Grand Coalition has lined up a number of nationwide activities to demand for a people driven Constitution which will be launched very shortly. Zambians are resolute in demanding a new constitution NOW, not tomorrow, not the day after and shall remain steadfast and focused until it is delivered to them.

Presented on behalf of the Grand Coalition by Fr. Leonard Chiti on 23 April 2014.

 

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