CIVIC and political groups have differed over President Mwanawasa’s proposal for a national convention to discuss the constitution-making process.The Oasis Forum described the President’s call as a step in the right direction but the Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) says the constitution- making process be confined to either the Government or Oasis Forum- proposed roadmaps, irrespective of the costs involved.
Oasis Forum new chairperson, the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president, Elijah Banda, said in an interview yesterday that the move was welcome although they needed time to study the matter before making a comprehensive statement.
“We will soon sit with the new LAZ Council to study the President’s pronouncement in line with what has been the position of the Oasis Forum on the matter,” Mr Banda said.
But FODEP executive director, Elijah Ruvuta, suggested it was better to go ahead with one of the established roadmaps as long as the weeks over which the process was supposed to take ran concurrently.
The Oasis Forum has suggested in its roadmap that the constitution-making process should be carried over a period of about 71 weeks while Government has proposed 87 weeks.
Mr Ruvuta said FODEP was sceptical about what would be achieved through a constitutional convention especially that there was almost nothing significant, which came from the last national convention.
“What did we achieve from the last convention.
Government is using costs as a concern for using the established roadmaps.
But what is the loss in investing in something broad. Moreover, how is the convention going to be managed because during the last one, a number of things were not properly handled,” Mr Ruvuta said.
Mr Ruvuta said since Government had agreed to enact the new constitution through a Constituent Assembly, it should not worry about the costs that would be incurred because it was a worthy investment.
And United Party for National Development (UPND) spokesperson, Charles Kakoma said the President’s stance was in line with UPND’s consistent calls for dialogue.
“The purpose of the indaba should be to reach consensus in studying various issues involved in the constitution-making process like the road map, which we need to discuss and agree on,” Mr Kakoma said.
He, however, said President Mwanawasa should not use the convention as a replacement for the Constituent Assembly.
“Instead the indaba should be used as a forum to discuss important issues like the mode of selecting people to be on the Constituent Assembly because this is what people wanted when making their submissions,” he said.
But Patriotic Front president, Michael Sata, said although the Oasis Forum’s roadmap was just a proposal, he would prefer a referendum on any roadmap because it was a quicker way of enacting a constitution.
Mr Sata who was speaking on Face the Media programme on Radio Phoenix, said a national convention might just be a waste of time and resources because many had been proposed over the last five years but nothing significant had come out of them.
He said a referendum should be used as a guide in enacting a new constitution because it was a quicker formula to bringing in an acceptable document to allow the people to govern themselves.
Non-Governmental Organisation Coordinating Council vice chairperson, Joyce Macmillan, said there was need for a good constitution because everything in the country rested on it.
She said issues like the fight against corruption, job security and independence of institutions like the judiciary, were all dependent on a good constitution.