Elias Chipimo: Parallel Universe Series No. 2 – A People-driven Constitution

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THE PARALLEL UNIVERSE SERIES

ISSUE NUMBER 2: DELIVERING A PEOPLE DRIVEN CONSTITUTION

Introduction

We continue with our second instalment in our “Parallel Universe Series” in which we point out the issues that the Patriotic Front are expected to address now that they are in power, in order to ensure that they live up to their governance responsibilities to the people. Last week, we issued a statement on the mealie-meal crisis. Given the complicated nature of the maize story, the statement we issued was longer than many would have been prepared for but there was no simple way to break down the problem. We can predict that the price of mealie-meal will eventually start to rise again and will only be kept low at great cost to the country. This is because once current stocks run out – and depending on next year’s harvest – we may end up having to import very expensive maize. In order for people to be able to continue to afford mealie-meal, Government will have to carry the extra costs. This is likely to have a serious impact on the ability of the PF to implement its already tattered development plans.

Wavering commitment

This week, we look at the foot dragging by the Patriotic Front on the Constitution. Towards the end of last week, Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Kennedy Sakeni suggested that the PF administration might not hold a referendum prior to the introduction of the much anticipated new Republican Constitution. The promise of a new Constitution was not only a clear campaign promise but was repeated by the Republican President less than one month after his swearing-in ceremony. This week, therefore, we highlight the lack of commitment by the PF administration to a people-driven Constitution-making process and set out NAREP’s proposals on how this process can be undertaken in a manner that will: (a) save resources; and (b) deliver a more people-driven document that can stand the test of time.

The promise

Let us start with the words that were uttered by President Sata during the official opening of Parliament on 14 October 2011:

“… the PF government attaches great importance to good governance and we are committed to delivering a new people driven constitution within ninety days. To this effect, we are in the process of consulting stakeholders with a view of establishing a committee of experts to review the recommendations of all previous constitutional review commissions in order to come up with a draft people’s constitution. The draft constitution will be subjected to a referendum and subsequently presented to parliament for enactment.”

There were several problems with this statement. First, as we had immediately pointed out after the announcement was made, it was not going to be possible to deliver a draft “people-driven” Constitution within 90 days. Some commentators and so-called experts said that it was simply a matter of drafting a document that would then be circulated and that such drafting could be accomplished within 90 days. They, however, missed the point. In order for the constitution to be people-driven, the draft would need to be put to the people for their comments otherwise it would be a Technical-Committee driven constitution and not a people-driven one. 90 days was clearly not going to be enough time to draft a new document as well as collect the views of people from across the country.

In the end, the drafting process was only completed 6 months after the President’s address with the initial report being released on 30 April 2012. We are now approaching the one year mark and all the indications are that the revised draft Constitution will only be ready in June (14 months after the initial draft was released). On top of all this, the costs associated with the current process are astronomical: in the 2012 budget, the PF administration allocated K95 billion (rebased K95 million) for the Constitution making process and in this year’s budget they have allocated an additional K15 billion (rebased K15 million).

While the cost of creating a new constitution will always be high because of the nature of the exercise required to be undertaken, the manner in which the funds are being spent needs to be reconsidered. There can be no doubt that the Constitution is an important document and that it is our best hope of ensuring that political power is not concentrated in too few hands or used excessively or abused. However, as we allocate resources towards such an exercise, we need to remain mindful of the many challenges that the majority of our people are going through:

  • poverty and ignorance through lack of accessible quality education remain a hindrance to many, particularly those living in rural communities
  • access to electricity is only available to 23 per cent of the population (approximately 3 million people out of over 13 million) and out of these, only 3 per cent of rural homes (390,000 people) have access
  • poor road infrastructure cuts off many from any gains of development which are unevenly distributed even in the urban areas where many have no access to clean drinking water and safe sanitation.

It is for these and other reasons that any government in Zambia must be a careful steward of the limited resources that are available for development. Allocating and spending K110 billion (rebased K110 million) on a Constitution-making process should therefore be very carefully scrutinised.

The challenge

Making a constitution that will stand the test of time is not easy because to really carry the goodwill of the people, it must involve the people. And this is where the challenge lies. Unlike the drafting of the American Constitution by what were known as the Founding Fathers, our recent history has shown that our politicians rarely have the needs of the people in mind when they are carving out power for themselves. Their decisions are primarily based on how they can tailor the laws to exclude perceived political enemies and ensure a continued hold on power. To avoid facing such an outcome in the current process, we need a framework for debating the constitution that will involve as many people as possible.

But involving the people requires us to ensure that we have access to the people. This is not easy because over 60 per cent of our population (over 8 million people) live in rural locations. We have a vast country that stretches over 750,000 square kilometres across terrain that is not easy to navigate. Populations in rural communities are generally found in clusters and they often have to navigate hostile terrain to access the most basic of services like healthcare and school. Every year children and adults die trying to cross fast-flowing streams that cut off their communities during the rains and many are left to die in homes because they cannot access even the most simple of healthcare facilities.

You have to question the so-called wisdom of repeating the same approach that has been consistently applied in every Constitution-making process, namely the holding of limited sessions in various provincial and district locations with select groups of participants.

When you consider this, you have to question the so-called wisdom of repeating the same approach that has been consistently applied in every Constitution-making process, namely the holding of limited sessions in various provincial and district locations with select groups of participants. It is important to understand that the total number of submissions in every Constitution review process that Zambia has undertaken since independence has produced less than 14,000 written and oral submissions. This amounts to approximately 0.1 percent (or a mere 10 percent of 1 percent) of Zambia’s current population. Clearly, the approaches of the past have been tried, tested and have failed to ensure that the voice of the people has truly been heard.

In order to be effective, we need a process that can ensure that even those with limited vocabulary or understanding of the English language and those that have not advanced themselves in formal education, can still have their say. This will not be done by limiting translations to the seven official local languages. It will not be done by relying on district and provincial tours. What is required is new and innovative thinking and strangely enough, something very positive that the PF administration has done since they came into power can help hugely to achieve a more widespread and cost-effective approach to Constitution-making, as we explain in setting out the way forward.

The way forward

NAREP has always favoured a three-step approach to constitution-making. It is an approach designed to ensure that we have the full participation of the public while at the same time, making the most effective use of our public resources and delivering a people-driven document in a timely manner.

The first step would be to put in place a clear roadmap on the constitution-making process that would be protected by an Act of Parliament. The roadmap would determine the timing of the various actions as well as the final date for enacting the new Constitution. Parliament would also pass or implement laws that would introduce the following institutions:

  • A Boundary Commission (which would address the creation of any new constituency boundaries)
  • A Referendum Commission (that would prepare for the impending referendum on the implementation of the new Constitution)
  • An Independent Court (which would address constitutional issues and protect the Constitution-making process).

The second step is to identify those areas of the constitution in which there is little public disagreement about the desired change. This would include the decision to have a fixed date for the next election. Incumbent administrations like to be the ones that determine when the next election will take place but this does not provide a level playing field for all parties wishing to contest elections. If everyone knows exactly when the next election will be, no one will be taken by surprise and the incumbent administration cannot manipulate the timing. The issue of dual citizenship is another example. It appears that only certain individuals within the PF are unaware that dual citizenship is something that benefits Zambians and not foreigners. These steps are important because to carry out a proper exercise will take time. Seeking to make some preliminary amendments will allow the PF to show goodwill to the general public and demonstrate the seriousness of the PF administration in seeking to promote the introduction of a people-driven constitution.

It appears that only certain individuals within the PF are unaware that dual citizenship is something that benefits Zambians and not foreigners.

The third step would be to involve community radio stations in promoting debate on the Constitution and collecting responses from the general public about the various provisions. This would be the most extensive radio education exercise ever conducted. Information about the Constitution would be aired in local communities in the local language of each particular community and would not be confined to the official local languages. It was after all, Nelson Mandela who wisely noted that speaking to a person in a foreign language speaks to their mind but speaking to them in their own language speaks to their heart. National and community radio stations have the means to promote and accurately record discussions on even the most complicated matter in the constitution and they can do this in the language of the community that they serve.

National and community radio stations have the means to promote and accurately record discussions on even the most complicated matter in the constitution and they can do this in the language of the community that they serve.

Further benefits of utilising national and community radio stations are that they have the widest possible reach in even remote locations where people have no access to television and print media. Both of these information dissemination methods are not able to successfully address the lack of literacy and the need for people to understand the provisions of the Constitution in their own language. Only community radio can do this efficiently. The PF has done a tremendous job in promoting the proliferation of community radio and should not squander the opportunity to make the most of this platform for delivering its development agenda. An additional benefit is that the funds spent using this approach will benefit local communities because the money will be channelled to the many young entrepreneurs that own the majority of local radio stations as well as non-Governmental organisations that can be commissioned to prepare the content for rural education and discussions on Constitutional matters.

Conclusion

The process of creating a new Constitution is never easy and will come with great cost. It is important to understand that if the exercise is to be done right, it cannot be rushed. The PF administration must embrace the opportunity to deliver a document that will stand the test of time. If they abandon their politicking and focus as much energy on delivering a people-driven constitution as they seem to be prepared to do in dealing with their perceived political foes, they will leave a positive legacy on future generations.

Elias C. Chipimo

NAREP President
25 January 2013

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39 COMMENTS

  1. Can we stop talking about this 90 days issue, please? When I see an old man with grey hair on his chin telling lies, my blood runs cold

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    • George Chella asked Chipimo to make specific examples of his “wayward and unfounded” allegations. He specifically asked the lies to be pointed out. The 90 day promis was…..A LIE!

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  2. Comrade E. Chipimo
    People are not interested in your academic style of writing even though your work is written like a political speech. You should have referenced your writing by showing us your sources which shows clear differences between your own work and work sighted from other authors or ordinary sources.
    Next time, you must write intext referencing and a reference page or bibiliograph and you must write it properly.
    Include names of authors, dates, years in the internal referencing. In the reference page, you must write the initials of authors, their surnames, the year of publication, the title of the book, the name of the book, the publishing house and its address.
    Where applicable, write the names of editors if the book is an edited book. Write the reference page…

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    • This is not a thesis, and he’s not supposed to show that here incase you are interested in this free information just visit the NAREP secretariat and obtain more information and advise……..this is typical of PF rubishing free advise and hope for CNP…..

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    • Chipimo keep your father’s english we re not interested in your writting, you chewed the monies when you accompanyed sata for window shopping dont forget .Since the money is finished you re now crying no more trip for you boy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

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    • You’re right Mr. Boom. Chipimo must be careful with his uncited writing because the next time he writes without recognising the source of his literature, we shall cite him for plagiarism, which is a very serious offence in academia!

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    • Bwana Boom and Whatever, there are things in life I find some people fail to appreciate and call names to appease themselves by showing they know more than others. By simply declaring Elias’ writing as academic is a very cheap statement. You were supposed to have just kept quiet rather than even put your statement to pen! Elias has a very clear point. You do not expect him to start outlining every point in an electronic news site like Lusaka Times. The details of what he is sharing belong to a roundtable discussion of the people that be in government. I have always known that Zambians generally are very brainy but also quick to yap when one challenges them to great points on issues! Shame!

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    • sighted is not the same as cited. this shows your luck of knowledge to debate issues chipimo has raised

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    • @Henry Mutafya#3.4
      My brother, there are no shortcuts in academic writing and every item which is written by the writer must be validated, meaning that the writer must show the reader/s where he/she sourced the information from. Failure to do so, it shows that the writer is plagialising someone’s work which is a very unacceptable. Note that a Mr. Chipimo used many terms and words in the above thesis which were coined by other reputable authors. Those phrases are not his and he must show us the end-users of his work that he recognises the work of others. Do not bring your own views and condemn what simple research methodologies advocate.
      We have gone way past how to write a Masters Dissertation and we must not entertain your uncalled for criticisms

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    • @Bwalya Chiselema#3.5
      I accept your criticism in part because I have made a minor blunder in that I wrote ‘sight’ in lieu of writing ‘cite’. However, this does not support your allegations which serve as a blanket criticism.
      By the way, the above words mean two different things

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    • @Henry Mutafya#3.4
      You seem to know what it feels like to claim to know something, yet on one hand, you know nothing upon close examination of your written work. Flowing from that, is that you know little or absolutely nothing about what you claim to know. This is not an insult on my part but a fact. Strickly look at Mr. Chipimo’s work. Where is one taught how to write a story like that?And at what level is one taught how to write a thesis like that? The answers are as follows: first, at a university when doing research work; second at masters level. The proof which supports my views is the attempt on the part of Chipimo to divide his work by using the introduction, subheadings and a clumsy conclusion. The failure on your part to notice academic writing amounts to limited academic…

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    • @BOOM & WHATEVER#3.6
      ‘plagiarising’ not ‘plagialising’
      ‘Failure to do so, it shows that the writer is plagiarising someone’s work which is unacceptable.’

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  3. This is a good analysis and very constructive advancing of alternative ideas put in a very civilised manner. I dont any need for anyone to attack Mr. Chipimo or indeed NAREP, the idea should be to interrogate their analysis and refute some of their asertions, no name caling, not personaql attacks, just the paper is presented!!!

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  4. The problem with Zambian politicians is that there talk well when there are not in power like Sata did.But the moment there assume the office there completely forget about all the good idea shared.

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  5. @BOOM & WHATEVER , Tom, Komboni Dweller. If you cannot understand what the man is saying please look at the part you do not understand and seek clarification from those of us that do, we will be more than happy to help. All your talk of this document being too academic is precisely what he says here. How would you expect someone in Mwandafisi ward to understand a draft constitution if you cannot understand this plain English?

    If it is to be truly people driven, it has to be people inclusive.

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    • Kwazi-Flying
      My dear friend, my argument in this instance is not about the contents of comrade Chipimo’s thesis, however, carefully note that Mr.Chipimo started off by writing his introduction followed by subheadings and ended his work with his incoherent conclusion. His rationale behind the above was/is to make it easier for the reader to understand his written work.
      The author of the above thesis should have started off by giving the reader/s the background before writing the above structure.
      Please, look up for varoius interpretations of the above word ‘thesis’ before you correct my work; @Dig#3.1

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    • Sorry, I meant to say ‘various’ not “varoius” in the above response to my freind ‘Kwazi-Fly.

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    • @ Boom @Whatever, I wouldn’t go so far as calling this release a thesis but an article related the following series of events :
      i) January 10, 2013 – Spiritual Sounding Elias Chipimo bemoans the lack of leadership in many areas in Zambia
      ii)January 11, 2013 – State House responds to Elias Chipimo Jnr
      iii)January 12, 2013 – NAREP Secretariat responds to George Chellah’s Statement
      ___ January 17, 2013 – Government not decided on whether to take the final constitutional draft to the referendum
      ___January 17, 2013 – Northern Province rejects Dual Citizenship Clause as Father Bwalya and Government officials differ
      iv)January 19, 2013 – Elias Chipimo releases the first instalment of constructive criticism of the PF Government

      If you read these articles you will understand. (SITE…

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  6. NAREP you should have released this contribution next week…sadly the last thing most Zambians want to do after Zambia’s loss yesterday is discuss politics.

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  7. cry the beloved country the problem with Africans is they r too blind to see logic . PF won coz of the ignorant of the country, the party’s promises were an achievable but gracious Lord was too much sense for million to give a vote. Country men here we go
    •poverty and ignorance through lack of accessible quality education remain a hindrance to many, particularly those living in rural communities. just read comments here and u shld be foolish to have high hopes for Zambia.

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  8. NAREP came with a bang especially in L/sone, but selfish Chipimo only managed to sponsor himself for 2011 Presidential Elections without supporting MP candidates countrywide. In the end, “Ali lobe ilya uma,” meaning Chipimo fished a dry one, NAREP is slowly drying up. However, since he is still young he should continue aspiring, probably he can get a chance in 2021 and beyond for Presidency, because meanwhile he should fairly give chance to other future Presidential candidates who hail from anywhere else other than Northern, Luapula, Eastern and Central provinces. The mentioned provinces(not tribes) have provided Presidents before, Amen.

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  9. I want to hear what my thug rapper superstar working at the most famous mansion in the country, Lil Georgie has got to say for himself.

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  10. Anyway the guy has things to say. Just campaign would be my advice, if you start making statements as if you are so important that you are above and beyond needing the vote of the man on the street, you will be forever irrelevant, just an overeducated commentator

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  11. Good advice from Chipimo. His is constructive criticism. That is the best he can do for now, in order to attract financiers and campaigners to help him and NAREP. Typical of foolish Zambians, they will rubbish wise and useful ideas as they conform to mediocrity. I am a PF supporter yet I see no reason to villify Chipimo over this you qualmers. He is better than HH and Mumba because we do not know what their views are. Chipimo we know. The man is eloquent and intelligent, unlike HaHa and Mumbo Jumbo.

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  12. What would have helped is how much NAREP constitutional making process would cost compared to the PF process. Also community radios my foot how many people will call in to contribute to the discussions and who will be responsible for taking the notes? Also how many of NAREP members have contributed to the ongoing consitution process? Theories will not help the country this article to me is useless

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    • @ Frank Banda, The proposition made by Chipomo is simply what it appears to be, a proposition. A plausible solution to this problem that we are facing. The cost is nothing when you compare it to the gains which will be A PEOPLE DRIVEN CONSTITUTION. Community radio stations are pivotal to spreading pertinent information to the masses in rural areas, they don’t all have to call because they have traditional leaders to speak for them if they have to do so. Chipimo’s point is that they may come up with a constitution but it will not really be people [email protected]! And if you add a referendum to it how are people supposed to vote for something they don’t understand?

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  13. I support those of the views that the article is academic. It’s an article that lacks substance and research. It was written to appease people living in foreign lands. Mr Chipimo fails to outline what acts are being proposed to be included or removed from the new constitution apart from stating dual citizenship , the cost of the exercise and that the new constitution should not target opposition. Surely dual citizenship is not the main purpose of having a new constitution, I was looking forward to read more about what will be in the new constitution, I am utterly disappointed. what are the masses going to debate over when nothing is being said about the content of the new constitution? . He should have at least pointed out the short falls of the current constitution and what should be…

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  14. Some of the ignorant comments here makes you realize why Zambia is where it is. Most of you can’t even read. Keep quiet if you have nothing constructive to say. Chipimo is what Zambia needs

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  15. This is clearly not a thesis – how people come up with such a conclusion baffles me. People suggesting a lack of quotes, e.t.c. Its an observation of what NAREP thinks has not gone right and proposals as to what it thinks could be done.
    You criticise opposition leaders who do not address issues or propose alternatives – yet, when an intelligent budding young politician does so, you galvanise all your arsenals of destructive criticism to shoot him down. If this were done with ammunition of constructively addressing his points, I would understand. But a lot of comments above border on bullish puzzling irrationality. Attacks for their own sake. So Chipimo is supposed to quote emminent writers of whatever relevant field in his community radio suggestion as a conduit of wider participation?

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