Jesuit Center for Theological Reflections (JCTR) has called for full inclusion of the Bill of Rights (BOR) in the new republican constitution to address human development in Zambia.
The center’s Coordinator of the Church Social Teaching Programme Kayula Lesa says in a release to ZANIS, that among the key issues many Zambians would want addressed is the incorporation of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) in the new Bill of Rights of the new Constitution.
“Many Zambians are anxiously waiting to see the end product of the current constitution making process. Zambians are hoping against hope that the end product will truly reflect their desires which are well expressed in the Mung’omba CRC and the Mung’omba Draft Constitution.
” Hence, departure from these desires will certainly mean imposition and will perhaps render the Constitution inadequate,” says Sr Lesa,in the release.
She adds that these rights are essential for integral human development especially as they give the right of access to basic needs such as education, health care, a clean environment, proper housing, employment and food, water and sanitation.
She explains in the release that these rights also form a strong basis for the realisation of another set of rights, the Civil and Political Rights — such as the right to life and the right to vote — provided for in the current Bill of Rights.
” For example, the right to life definitely depends on the right to access quality health care. Despite their importance, ESCR in the current Constitution are merely directive principles to inform government policy. As such, these ESCR principles do not oblige government to pay particular attention to the realisation of these rights and robs the people of a legal mechanism they can use should these rights be denied,” says the Centre’s official.
Discussions on ESCR in the Human Rights Committee of the NCC (which began its sitting in January and ended in April 2009) appeared to have attached great importance to these rights as many ESCR from the Mung’omba Draft Constitution were recommended with few amendments.
The Center official observes that this is a step in the right direction,saying the JCTR recognises that these recommendations are subject to adoption by the NCC Plenary.
” Therefore we at JCTR strongly urge the Plenary of the NCC to reflect deeply on the importance of these rights in raising the standard of living of most Zambians, especially the poor,adopt these rights and ensure that they are in the new Bill of Rights so that citizens have a legal mechanism for claiming their rights (which are entitlements and not promises) should they be denied,
and thirdly ensure that a National Referendum takes place so that what is in the Constitution is truly reflective of what the Zambian people want,”she says.
Sr. Kayula further asserts that, “We realise that a state, regardless of its level of economic development, is obliged to ensure respect for both sets of rights (ESCR and Civil and Political Rights) for everyone.
” This obligation however does not necessarily require that free services are provided but that the State takes concrete and deliberate steps to progressively realise human rights, especially ESCR. Therefore, the question of limited resources, while understandably significant, should not be a barrier to the inclusion of ESCR in the Bill of Rights.”
In fact, the inclusion of these rights will serve as a key incentive to utilising the many natural resources we are endowed with and managing our resources with prudence so that we make available the much needed resources to fulfill ESCR. Failure to include these important rights in the Bill of Rights will be a significant missed opportunity and a sad waste of resources as the Constitution will remain inadequate.”
We at JCTR state again that without Constitutional measures to compel our Government to provide for basic needs, it will remain difficult for Zambians, especially the most vulnerable, to realise their basic human rights.