YALI tells Kabimba to put Zambia first, accuses him of giving Constitutional Committee additional mandate

The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) has told Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba that putting Zambia first would resolve the contentious issues in the ongoing constitutional making process.

And YALI has explained to Kabimba that president Michael Sata did not give the constitution Review Committee additional mandate to supervise NGOs who wish to discuss the draft constitution independently.

YALI governance advisor Isaac Mwanza was responding to Kabimba who wrote to him on October 3, 2012 in which Kabimba maintained that NGOs can discuss the constitution but only under supervision of the Technical Committee.

But in response, Mwanza said this directive is more or ‘less government machinery to place an invisible hand in determining the final outcome of the Constitution that shall be submitted to Parliament for rubberstamping as per PF manifesto.’

Below is a copy of the letter Mwanza wrote to Kabimba:

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hon. Wynter Kabimba, ODS, SC

Minister of Justice

Republic of Zambia

Lusaka, Zambia

 

I wish to sincerely thank you for your letter dated October 3, 2012 in response to our letter. We have taken very keen interest in the manner in which you responded to our letter and we, like you, appreciate areas of our disagreements. We hope it is with the same kind of leadership that you will once again listen and pay attention to areas where these disagreements still exist. We can, Hon. Minister, iron these disagreements if we all strive to put our country first. We herein address two major issues that came out of your judicious response: the new mandate of the Technical Committee to supervise the work of civil society and the need for the Technical Committee to stay within its overarching mandate.

 

We have, Hon. Minister, reviewed the Terms of Reference (ToRs) for the Technical Committee. Sadly, we note that nowhere under those Terms do we find any indication that H.E. President Michael C. Sata mandated or silently implied that the 22-member Technical Committee would assume additional responsibility of supervising the work of civil society engaged in Zambia’s constitutional reform process. Your “prescribed route” where organizations(s) are “at liberty to convene workshops but only under the supervision of the Technical Committee,” is more or less a government machinery to place an invisible hand in determining the final outcome of the Constitution that shall be submitted to Parliament for rubberstamping as per PF manifesto. This is no different from the same route our late learned George Kunda and the then MMD Government took when, twice in the driving seat, had rare opportunities of delivering a people-driven Constitution.

 

Hon. Minister, we may be wrong but we need to fairly and frankly state that the only reason your office would insist on having a mere Government-constituted Committee supervise the work of independent civil society in such a reform process is to enable Government include its wishes in our new Constitution. That, Hon. Minister, cannot be said to be a commitment towards producing a people-driven constitution. Having lived longer than us on the surface of this earth – seeing one constitutional reform after another – you will agree that these similar methods were used by other Justice Ministers and governments before you. We think the Patriotic Front (PF) would NOT want to be like other Parties that dribbled our people by enacting supreme laws that represented sectional and/or party interests.

 

Hon. Minister, in belaboring your point that the work of the Technical Committee is restricted to reviewing recommendations of the previous three Constitution Review Commissions (CRCs) only and compiling into a draft Constitution recommendations therefrom, you seem to suggest the Technical Committee is or has gone beyond its mandate when it requested citizens to submit comments on the draft Constitution during the just ended public consultative period.

 

You may be aware that the Technical Committee has, working without any parliamentary-approved budget, spent colossal sums of taxpayers money in procuring ‘Comment Boxes’ placed in 150 constituencies, published and distributed more than 160,000 newsprint copies, audio and simplified versions of the draft constitution. The Committee has continued to use public resources gifted by the Zambian people or Zambia’s cooperating partners to have the public take ownership of the new Constitution by independently scrutinizing contents of the draft Constitution and submitting comments on this noble but fallible work done by the committed members of the Technical Committee. If all this work is beyond the mandate of the Technical Committee, then someone must be prepared to take responsibility for public resources (ab)used during these public consultations. Under the MMD regime, the PF made us believe that such accountability rested on late George Kunda, the then Minister of Justice.

 

Hon. Minister, we are now left with an impression that the Technical Committee has completed its mandate when it reviewed recommendations of the previous CRCs, produced the Draft Constitution, identified key issues that are being presented to provincial constitutional committees and facilitate debate on these key issues in provincial centres to the exclusion of holding the National Constitutional Convention which, too, is outside their mandate and any more expenditure of unbudgeted funds by the Committee amounts to abuse of taxpayers money.

 

Hon. Minister, our humble view is that it inconceivable to aver that the Technical Committee must strictly review the work of previous CRCs and compile a draft constitution without public critic and input by way of comments on its draft Constitution. How such could contribute to ensuring “the drafting process faithfully reflects the wishes of the people of Zambia and bring about a National Constitution that will stand the test of time” could be a mystery to so many amongst us. The enormous task before us all, which the 22-member Committee cannot supervise even with the best of resources at their disposal, is to ensure that citizens in urban and remote places stay engaged in this process.

 

You may wish to know, Hon. Minister, that YALI has noted the inclusion of certain other progressive provisions in the draft constitution such as the Bill of Rights that includes the children and women rights and recognition of marginalized and minority rights and excluded the right of the electorate to recall non-performing legislators, which was one of the key recommendation of previous CRCs. Citizens have a duty to engage in independent debates on such provisions. Workshops, conferences and other legal means conducted without the invisible hand of government can provide avenues for producing a Constitution that “faithfully reflects the wishes of the people of Zambia.”

 

Hon Minister, your current directive and prescribed route now validates concerns and fears by the church, CSOs, political parties and citizens that this process, without a necessary legal framework, is subject to manipulated as the appointing authority or indeed any other person successively appointed as our country’s Justice Minister would be at liberty to reduce or give additional mandate to the Technical Committee (or later the Referendum Commission) e.g. to supervise the work of the church, NGOs, and other actors engaged in constitutional reform process. This has been one of the major reasons for failure by previous governments to give Zambians a people-driven Constitution. We know that President Sata and indeed yourself, Hon Minister, would not like to be part of yet another failed constitutional reform process. Would you?

 

I thank you for taking your valuable time to read this letter and I apologize once again for its length.

Yours faithfully,

Isaac Mwanza

Governance Advisor

Young African Leaders Initiative

 

cc:       His Excellency, Mr. Michael C. Sata

President of the Republic of Zambia

State House

Lusaka, Zambia

 

cc:       Chairperson

Technical Committee Drafting the Zambian Constitution

cc:                     United Nations Development Programmme

Lusaka, Zambia

 

Cc:      President, Young African Leaders Initiative

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