Zambia: Netizens Sceptically Hail Draft Constitution

The Technical Committee on Drafting the Zambian Constitution which was constituted in November 2011 to write the country’s new constitution released the first draft of the document on 1 May for discussion by citizens some of who sceptically called it only a “draft.”

The consolation about the document, which has been given 40 days for public discussion, is that it would not be submitted to government which has in the past rejected recommendations in draft constitutions through Cabinet white papers.

Zambian coat-of-arms

Zambian coat-of-arms. Courtesy of nKani News.

Paul Shalala, reflects on the constitution making processes Zambia has gone through in the past:

Reading through the 227 pages of the Michael Sata-appointed Technical Committee’s first draft constitution, am reminded of the struggles, pickets, war of words and insults that the people of Zambia have gone through over the past years on this seemingly unending constitution making process.

This draft constitution has come at a time when most Zambians seem to be tired with the words “a constitution which will stand the taste of time.”

He notes the inclusion of what have been contentious issues in the past:

It is however, interesting to note that almost all those contentious issues are included in the first draft constitution released by the Technical Committee in April 2012. These are the 50 plus one presidential election threshold or the majoritarian electoral system, the Vice Presidential running mate, proportional representation, the appointment of ministers from outside parliament and others.

The other contentious issue is the Christian nation clause.

He concludes:

In its current form, the first draft constitution is progressive, it appeals to most people’s aspiration despite a few shortcomings. Therefore, stakeholders who will take part in conventions, should ensure that all progressive clauses are maintained so that a constitution we all want can be enacted into law and will “stand a test of time.

But some Zambian netizens could not help but express pessimism with the draft constitution considering that the country has undergone four constitution review processes including the last exercise whose draft constitution was in early 2011 defeated in parliament by the opposition led by the Patriotic Front (PF) now in government and leading the constitution-making process.

Commenting on the Facebook group, Zambian People's Parliament, Nawa Mukwati Sibongo, writes:

My speaker sir, like many I am pleased to see the draft constitution. But I need to remind the house this is only a draft. As members we need to make a strong and solid representation for articles that we approve and voice concern where we feel the constitution has fallen short with well thought and articulated alternatives.

Another netizen, Isaac M. Mwanza notes the absence of women and youth representation in parliament in the draft:

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that the 1st draft Constitution has not provided for women and youth representation in parliament by numbers. So far the constitution is so vague on women and youth representation and with a complicated PR system, it is possible that we may not have numbers in parliament if the Constitution does not specifically provide for number of seats for women and youth. I beg to move.

Elisha King Musoma, commenting on the Zambian Peoples Pact Facebook group disagrees with the removal of the parental clause that exists in the current constitution barring citizens whose parents were not born in Zambia from ascending to the presidency:

The current parentage clause which forbids Zambians with foreign parents to stand for president in Zambia should not be tempered with as it didn’t come from late president Dr Fredrick Chiluba, but from the majority Zambians at large which included Sata himself, and Dr Kaunda just happened to be a victim. It was a cry of many Zambians for too long that Zambia like any other sovereign state should be ruled by indigenous Zambians and that’s why when MMD came into power, they enacted the law accordingly.
They were not targeting KK as such as his sympathisers are trying to portray, as he was no longer a factor after he left office in the manna he did, very embarrassing indeed. Was it going to make sense for the country to fail to heed the cries of the people because of one person? I believe it was going to be utter stupidity on our part, as it is going to be if we go ahead and amend this clause in order to please a few people like Mr Simon Zuka, Dipak Patel and Dr Guy Scot among others just because they are friends to the Post News Paper and Sata.

On Twitter, most tweeps pick out elements they agree with in the draft constitution:

@luchi7: 50 plus 1 included in the draft constitution #Zambia

@MadridistaLombe: So Finally Zambia will allow Dual-Citizenship if this Draft Constitution is approved. Oh, The endless possibilities.

One politician, writing on the Zambian Watchdog website, was however harsh with his verdict of the draft constitution:

The draft constitution released by the Patriotic Front Technical Committee of Experts on Constitution is a corrupt version of the National Constitution Conference –NCC version which the National Assembly rejected not long ago. When you compare the PF-TCE draft constitution with the one that was rejected by the National Assembly, you will notice that, the earlier version had people at heart. Unlike the current constitution under review which is politically motivated by way of giving the central government more power, the earlier version was flexible and had provisions of democracy in it.

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