Open Letter to Sata on Constitution Referendum

By Dr Given Mutinta

Dear Mr President,

I am writing on behalf of people who believe in participatory governance.

Given that the draft Constitution has been released into the public domain, the owners, we are reminding your administration to adopt a referendum technique to ratify the Constitution as stipulated in the terms of reference given to the Constitution Technical Committee.

Your government should not waste time squabbling on who leaked the draft Constitution to the Zambian Watchdog. Hanging on to find out who gave away the document is inconsequential and a wild goose chase. The question we need to answer is whether the new draft is a good Constitution. Besides, the Constitution belongs to the people with whom it is concerned and considered as a model upon which to create a peaceful and just society.

We thank the Technical Committee for drafting the Constitution.

Mr President, it is both unethical and immoral for any person or group to sit on the draft Constitution. Therefore, set up a Referendum Commission now and provide a roadmap so that the owners of the document can start discussions on its value and have it ratified in next to no time.

Both supporters of the draft Constitution and its critics have had enough time to leaf through the document for us to adequately measure public opinion.

After discussions, we need a referendum. It is through a referendum the sovereignty of the Zambian people can be upheld.

Mr President, we will not condone any form of representative system of ratifying the Constitution except through a referendum. The principle of popular sovereignty gets real expression in direct participation of the public in approving their Constitution.

We can be represented in other processes but not in the ratification of the Constitution. We will protect this document to stop any person or group from shaping the public opinion on partisan lines. The Constitution is not for a person or political party. It is for the sovereign people of this country.

For this reason, the best way to know the genuine public opinion about the Constitution is through the apparatus of a referendum. It will enable the Zambian citizens to express their opinions and ideas directly.

We fervently believe that a referendum is the most reliable method of ensuring that the influence especially of political parties or government is truncated. We do not want a referendum with a partisan spirit

The tool of a referendum is a necessity to ensuring that the final authority of approving or rejecting the draft Constitution rests with the Zambian people.

Mr President, the Constitution belongs to the people, therefore we demand a referendum. It is a securest system of safeguarding the Constitution against tyranny of some individuals and groups.

Therefore, provide a plan now on how the Constitution will be discussed and ratified through a referendum. Conventional wisdom, Mr President, has taught us that in representative democracy the majority party rules.

For this reason, we need a referendum so that in the ratification processes of the Constitution the minorities will not be ignored or the process made to remain at the discretion of the majority party or government.

Mr President, let Zambians exercise their rights to approve their own law and enjoy the sacrosanct opportunity to adequately express their opinion and have a Constitution by their popular vote.

We have faith in a referendum that it will serve as a valuable method for imparting immense political education to the Zambian citizens.

The referendum will give the Zambian people an opportunity they merit to feel and understand that they are the real legislators not their representatives. This way, their patriotism and sense of responsibility will be fully kindled. As a result, a referendum will lead to real political education of the citizens.

There is no doubt that a referendum will have great moral value to the people. The approval of the Constitution will demand from the people great moral standards. Wisdom has taught us that the law ratified by the people is more freely observed than one ratified on their behalf.

Thus, this country needs is a Constitution that will be approved by the owners. Such a Constitution will command greater moral authority than one coming from somewhere else.

Mr President, since the Constitution belongs to the public, it is just ethical to give the veto power to the people. Let them exercise their right to examine the vagaries of their Constitution. People should have the privilege of directly giving verdict to their own Constitution.

If Zambia is a democratic country as we claim, let us allow the development of the idea of popular sovereignty. A referendum is one such necessary development of the notion of popular sovereignty.

Mr President, people cannot truly be free if they always act through leaders composing the government. Why? The reason is that most of the so called leaders act according to their political parties’ agendas, and this leads to the misrepresentation of people’s will. Therefore, we need a referendum to give people the positive right of framing a Constitution they feel they truly need.

In addition, there is crushing evidence that some of the leaders are in power to serve their interests not the masses. Therefore, they are indifferent to the needs of the people. They do not feel the pulse of this country therefore quash the public opinion. We are thus convinced that a referendum will pull up some apathetic leaders and remind them of the needs of the masses as expressed in our Constitution.

Mr President, some of us have not seen many days as you have, but at least we know that there is greater sanctity behind a people driven Constitution. Therefore, we believe that a people driven Constitution will not be doubted to be a manifestation of their own will.

Here is an opportunity for you Mr President to bed with godliness by not acting as an obstacle to the people’s aspiration to ratify their own Constitution they will hold in greater sanctity. Zambian citizens will be more willing to uphold a Constitution they have ratified themselves than one passed by their leaders they do not even trust. Do not miss a chance of a lifetime to have your name permanently written in the sands of time by becoming a stumbling block to a referendum.

We are sure, since you no longer mingle with the masses that your advisors tell you that outside State House there is public discontentment on numerous issues including the violation of human rights, tribalism, nepotism, corruption, abuse of public resources, and other vices rampant in your regime. By allowing people to ratify their own Constitution, the political mess we are in may minimise, and even the blatant and justifiable ill feelings against you may lessen.

In a democratic dispensation, there can never be a good enough reason for a person or regime to stop people from passing a Constitution they consider important for their welfare.

Mr President, let the people exercise their constitutional right through a referendum. As a political schemer, you should know better that a referendum may help you to add a bit of character and stability to your despised regime and tail off the public discontentment and political chaos.

We need a referendum now. It will help people to arrive at a Constitution that will support national unit and all-rounded development we need so much.

If your regime is not able to fund a referendum, our development partners are ready to support this noble cause.

Mr President, let the people have a Constitution that will bond together the diverse sections of this country plus the different areas of the economy to conquer the persistence of joblessness, poverty, hunger, societal decay, and overall stagnation.

Looking forward to your bold step that will expedite the approval of the Constitution through a referendum.

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