MINISTER of Justice Ngosa Simbyakula has dismissed claims that President Lungu has altered the contents of the final draft constitution.
He said in an interview yesterday that these assertions by the Grand Coalition on the campaign for a people-driven constitution are misplaced.
“They are talking of a meeting at which President talked of the deletion of the clause, of which I am unaware of. The position is that nothing has been deleted from the final draft constitution, it is intact,” Dr Simbyakula said.
The Grand Coalition claims that President Lungu plans to unilaterally alter contents of the draft constitution by deleting Article 269 which relates to vesting of all land in the President.
Dr Simbyakula has said the draft constitution is intact as President Lungu has not deleted any clause from it.
Forum for Democratic Process (FODEP) executive director MacDonald Chipenzi said Zambians should avoid speculation on the contents of the final constitution.
Mr Chipenzi said in a separate interview that it is cardinal for all concerned citizens to read the contents of the revised draft constitution.
“For us, we will only believe the current talk when we see the revised draft constitution and so for now, we will treat it as mere talk,” Mr Chipenzi said.
He, however, urged Government to come up with a legal framework to protect the contents and process of constitution-making.
And Patriotic Front (PF) deputy chairperson of the media and publicity committee Sunday Chanda said President Lungu is a listening President as evidenced by the number of traditional rulers he has engaged in the four months he has been in office.
“In the context of Article 296 of the final draft constitution, the President has heard, listened and further understood the misgivings by their royal highnesses in his continued engagements with them. Article 296 has a direct bearing on their royal highnesses and not the Grand Coalition and their political sponsors,” Mr Chanda said.
He said it is clear for all to see that the Grand Coalition and its political sponsors are not being candid enough when they elect to misunderstand the spirit and context in which President Lungu spoke on the matter.
“It is, therefore, a distortion of facts for the Grand Coalition and its political sponsors to allege that President Lungu had unilaterally dropped the land clause from the final draft constitution. If we may ask, under which provision of law did the President make that unilateral decision to drop clause 296?” Mr Chanda said.
He said it is clear that the Grand Coalition seeks to play to the gallery on this matter when they know too well that the final draft constitution cannot be said to be a consensus document in its current form.
“This is also confirmed by the rejection of Article 296 by their royal highnesses from all corners of the country, giving more credence to our continued call for the focus of the constitution-making process debate to be more on the contents as opposed to the peripheral issues the Grand Coalition and their political sponsors wish to stick to,” Mr Chanda said.
He said PF does not need to remind the Grand Coalition that the constitution- making process is a consensus-building process and not an opportunity for insisting and pushing particular clauses such as the contentious Article 296 down the throats of their royal highnesses when they have rejected it.
“Their royal highnesses have spoken unequivocally and unanimously that they have rejected Article 296 and that is the position the head of state reaffirmed in listening to them. If the people have spoken as they have on a matter, who are the Grand Coalition to demand otherwise?
“The Grand Coalition promised to consult their royal highnesses regarding Article 296 and we call on them to report back on their findings and resolutions, otherwise they should not muzzle the chiefs when they speak clearly on a matter that directly concerns them,” Mr Chanda said.
He challenged the Grand Coalition to go out and reach the chiefs and persuade them to change their stance regarding Article 296 of the final draft constitution and the PF will be waiting to hear their report.
“His Excellency President Lungu remains committed to protecting the tenets of democracy and the voices of the people, in this particular instance, the voice of their royal highnesses because “vox populi vox Dei” (the voice of the people is the voice of God),” Mr Chanda said.
Grand Coalition chairperson Leonard Chiti, in a statement released yesterday, accused President Lungu of unilaterally deteting the clause.
He said the coalition is concerned that without a legal framework to guide the process, there is no guarantee that the interests of the people will be respected and protected.