Thursday, May 30, 2024

President Lungu must assemble a cross-cutting team to look at whole Constitution

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President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu signing the Constitution Bill during the Assenting of the Constitutional Bill Ceremony at Heroes Stadium yesterday 05-01-2016. Picture by ROYD SIBAJENE/ZANIS
President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu signing the Constitution Bill during the Assenting of the Constitutional Bill Ceremony at Heroes Stadium yesterday 05-01-2016. Picture by ROYD SIBAJENE/ZANIS

By Isaac Mwanza

As I said before, I have never held a view that any country’s Constitution is cast in stone and not amenable to amendments. A good constitution evolves with time.

No Constitution in the world is perfect, not even the American Constitution. I know one America’s lawmaker will be pushing the Senate to amend provisions of America’s electoral college in favour of the popular vote. After hundreds of years, America may soon adopt either the First-past-the-post or the 50% + 1 which will make every vote count.

Where did we go or do we usually go wrong with the Constitution? If we truly want a Constitution that will last the test of time, we must honestly answer this question.

The first reason is that we have always allowed the Constitution reform to be driven by elites within our society and ordinary citizens are only viewed like a footnote. Secondly, we have this belief that lawyers are the only people who know what or how to write a Country’s Constitution just like it had been a tradition to have a lawyer as Minister of Justice.

Law becomes a preserve of lawyers and citizens who are expected to follow it are told, ignorance of the law is no defence.

Those in charge of training our citizens into becoming lawyers also have also devised a way of ensuring that not so many people become lawyers because services such as representing clients or taking up these noble tasks as re – writing the Constitution must be done by a few legal brains.

That is not to belittle the achievements done by learned friends. Your career is noble just like doctors, nurses, accountants, engineers, journalists, etc.

President Lungu has ably appointed Hon Given Lubinda, a non-lawyer, as Minister of Justice to lead this important Ministry and this must also be done if this country is to amend or come up with a new Constitution.

We need a combination of lawyers and very ordinary citizens to undertake this noble task. If we are re – writing the Constitution only for lawyers, then President Lungu must appoint all lawyers for this task. Again, he must remember that the Constitutional reform will never come to an end as the Constitution will be seen as document only for lawyers.

Some of u may not have seen this document (in the link), but to a large extent, what happened leading to the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment), Act No. 2 of 2016 appears to have been a well-guided path at a time when the constitution reform was almost dividing this country.

This document and roadmap was offered by a group of citizens to government, and if government had closely and religiously followed its advice and proposals, we would have largely avoided the mess we in today have with the Constitution. Maybe, the next Committee the President appoints must look at such submissions with an open mind.

I believe it’s time to involve citizens from all walks of life in re – writing our country’s Constitution using the simplest language to be understood and easily interpreted by all citizens, persons who are on trial in criminal cases and potential lawbreakers. Lawyers must provide guidance and elite-influence minimised. Let’s reopen this book and clean it up in the most sincere manner and devoid of selfish interest and greedy associated with this process.

The Constitution must not be written to serve the President or MPs but it must be a law the majority of our people can be proud of. I know President Lungu normally listen to advice and is not afraid of criticism. I have said before that the President ought to advice be surrounded by people who will only praise him but citizens who can tell the Emperor when he is naked.

Let us therefore take to Parliament amendments to fine-tune the Constitution or the whole new Constitution which is not made in the minister’s office or the boardroom at Ministry of Justice. The starting point is to have a well-represented Committee or Working Group of mostly citizens, few lawyers and draftspersons working without any secrecy on amendments or new Constitutional provisions. We also must never make the same mistakes again of writing the Constitution in a language which only the Court and lawyers can interpret.

Let us avoid living like Plato and Socrates are working for Zambia’s Ministry of Justice. The Constitution must be re – written in very plain language especially that we are a country that is not striving to have the normal lawyer-client ratio as we do with doctors.

The Author is a Governance Adviser at the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI)

35 COMMENTS

  1. It is not the lawyers who messed up but the members of Parliament who acted in their own interest. Just as the proposals they are making now.

    • What this Isaac wakum’mawa is saying is a lot of bull. The original document was done by the people thru the review commissions. Lawyers provided the legalese’ & the draughting. The problem we have is Edward ra.ped the original doc to come up with one that’d make him win. Edward never listens to anyone but his demons.
      What Isaac is suggesting is that Edward should again come to hero’s stadium on 1/1/21 to sign another piece of trash to perpetuate his stay.

    • Isaac, you should improve your English and generally your style of writing. Who starts an article with, “As I said before”, surely…!?

      What will a new reader make of ‘before’, when was ‘before’ and what did you ‘say’ before, and in what context did you ‘say’ it..!!!?

      Think about the reader…

    • When the opposition raised their concerns about this, you called the bitter and all sorts of names while hipping praise on EL who signed it with his eyes closed at tax payers expense with all the PF thugs at the stadium. Can we now say HH was right.

    • Why do we always do things the wrong way? The constitution by its nature is a law. Where in the world is law making the responsibility of the Executive branch?

      Stop the insanity!

    • since time imemorial whenever we have a close race in USA or when the one candidate wins the popular vote and loses the electoral vote,there has always been cries to go for popular vote,but it will never happen.there are reasons why we go for electoral college system and one is to have win states across the board.going for popular vote can give DEMOCRATES to hold the presidency for long time due to densely inner city population.

  2. 1 AGREE WITH apparatchik ABOVE THAT THIS CONSTITUTION MAKING PROCESS IS JUST A WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY. WE HAVE JUST AMENDED THE CONSTITUTION AFTER A VERY PROTRACTED PERIOD SINCE MMD CAME TO POWER. IT WILL TAKE ANOTHER 20 YEARS OR SO BEFORE ANOTHER UNBAKED CONSTITUTION WILL BE IMPLEMENTED. THE TRUTH IS THAT WITH THE DIVIDE OF 50/50 BETWEEN RULING AND OPPOSITION IN THE COUNTRY THERE WILL NEVER BE A CONSTITUTION THAT WILL GARNER 100% SUPPORT.
    STOP THE YAPPING AND CONCENTRATE ON DEVELOPING THE COUNTRY.
    ADD A CLAUSE THAT WILL SAY CONSTITUTION TO BE AMENDED AFTER EVERY 50 YEARS.

  3. People – until and unless we begin to treat our governance system as a bottom-up, heads-up system, we will always think that appointing little cliques (even if they are so-called cross-cutting) will resolve burning issues in our societies. Our parliament does not serve the electorate; they serve their parties much more so the president if their party is in power. Just look at the non.sense subsisting in your national assembly with silly ministries being approved without caution. We need to empower the functions of people so that they can even recall a silly MP if s/he goes against what the town hall sent him to do at any particular time. My two cents worth!

  4. While it may be true to say a constitution evolves with time, but a constitution that evolves 3 or 8 months after its amendment is a useless constitution.

  5. there is absolutely no need to appoint more people to look at it..how many times will this be done honestly. up and down priorities

  6. I have never seen such utter nonsense in my long life….but we are not fazed we shall bring sanity 2021 is not far as all and sundry will soon discover

  7. Please do not mislead people on the US Electoral College system, it has been tried over 200 times to amend the constitution but it has failed. this is because of the requirement that the amendment must be approved by 2/3 of all the states and it must pass through their two houses.
    Our system, unfortunately when you have selfish people in power can be amended by parliament, the common man has no say as the selfish representatives would pretend to be representing the masses. I would rather the current constitution is properly interpreted, or at least get credible constitutional judges who could depth into the interpretations of contentious clauses within the constitution.

  8. We can live with this constitution. Its the economy that needs fixing first. Governance this, governance that get out of my face. Give us a break.

  9. President Lungu must assemble a cross-cutting team to look at whole Constitution so that they can enrich themselves ba chakolwa…

  10. Comment: Asking the Government to come up with a cross-cutting team to look again on the constitution? No no and a big NO. If it goes to such extent then i would be in support of Parliament doing the job.

  11. Yali is proving to be inconsistent with their position on the constitution. They supported piece meal amendments. We raised fears of the government manipulating the whole document and they still supported them for that so i don’t know what they want or maybe its time to amend their own constitution

  12. CONSTITUTION MAKING PROCESS, MY FOOT.
    THE PEOPLE WHO MADE THE CONSTITUTION FAILED TO INTERPRET WHAT THEY MEANT BY 14 DAYS . SO WHERE ARE WE GOING? WE NEED A BREAK AND CONCENTRATE ON DEVELOPING THE NATION. SOME PEOPLE WANTED THE NEW CONSTITUTION IN ORDER TO “FIX” THE PARTY IN POWER, WHILE THE PARTY IN POWER WANTED THE NEW CONSTITUTION IN ORDER TO PERPETUATE THEIR STAY IN POWER…SO BOTH HAD EVIL MOTIVES. THE LOSER IS IN THIS CASE IS THE POOR ZAMBIAN IN MUGUBUDU OR LUNGUMUKUTA OR CHINYAMALITAPI…….GOD HELP US.

  13. Worsting resources on a useless document.It has become a way of siphoning money from a poor nation.Just forget about it and concentrate on valuable things that will bring progress to our poor nation which is ravaged with unbearable poverty.It is pointless belabouring on an issue which does not hold any water.After messing it up and you benefited out of it,you want to take it to parliament.It is one way of hoodwinking people and prolonging your stay in power.Forget about it!!!we are tired of this piece of trash called constitution.

  14. The new consititution is the best after so many proposals since independence. Zambians love seminars, conventions etc so that they can receive undeserved allowances.

  15. The only way to agree on a constitution that will last is to draft one that will be enacted in 10 yrs. Nobody knows who will be in power then. So there will be no special interests.

  16. We cannot all the time be in this election and constitutional making cycle, no! This surely is not the context economic development plays out, not al all.

  17. Do not waste our time. Who’s paying you to advocate silly ideas? You have said it yourself that a constitution evolves with time.
    The time between morning and afternoon does not provide long enough a period to test a constitution.
    If you went round the country today you would collect exactly the same recommendations as the last committee.
    In case, this is a matter which should be driven by the people only and not a very few self centred individuals interested in their tummies

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