When we say Zambia needs a good constitution with adjusted powers of leadership, the recent case of 160 nurses who were dismissed by a hubristic health minister is the reason why. In a country where the constitution serves the interests of its citizens and not protecting the selfishness of leadership, differences like protests over entitlements of working citizens are adjusted by legislative and judiciary establishments. In the end it was supposed to be the courts or parliament deciding over the fate of nurses and not brute force of ministers—Dr Joseph Kasonde and his Labour counterpart Fackson Shamenda
By Nyalubinge Ngwende
The political inheritance of this country remains a curse that makes the yet so near people driven constitution continue to seem so far and unattainable from one political administration to another.
Through out its election campaigns in the opposition the Patriotic Front promised the Zambian people a good constitution. In fact, it gained more sympath from the electorates when it condemned the colossal sums of money that the Movement for Multi-party Democracy was spending through the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) to amend the country’s 1996 constitution.
The Patriotic Front leader Michael Sata also refused his members of parliament from participating in the NCC, while those who went ahead to defy the part position in the name of fulfilling their parlimentary duty were ostracised from the opposition party and tagged as rebel MPs who had joined the ruling MMD in the plunder of national resources while Zambians continued to wallow in poverty.
At one public meeting, Sata even witnessed one of his confidants, Samuel Mukupa, tear a copy of NCC draft constitution, portraying it as a useless document that did not represent the aspirations of the people. Sata promised the country a new constitution adopted through a constituency should he be voted into office. The stance of Sata and his party attracted the sympathy and support of religious institutions like the Catholic Church, the civil society and workers among teachers and nurses.
Inarguably, the view that the MMD had wasted national resources on a bad process that did not give Zambia a constitution contributed to Sata going to win the September 11, 2011 election and amassing about 60 seats in the national assembly.
Today, even the representatives of the church movement and civil society that gave full support to President Sata to win the election are stunned by his u-turn on the constitution.
Addressing people of Mansa Central after returning a parliamentary seat in by-election caused by the death of Patriotic Front member, Kennedy Sakeni, Sata said Zambia does not need a new constitution, but only amendments to the defects in the existing one.
This statement by Sata is a complete departure from the false hope he created among Zambians when he constituted a Technical Committee on the draft of a new constitution.
The draft constitution written by the TC is a completely new document with new inclusions in broader areas coming from stakeholder consultative meetings held across the country.
It is folly that today President Sata wants piece meal amendments. If that is what he wanted why didn’t he just ask Zambians to vote on the clauses that they wanted amended which they would have done judiciously instead of wasting time and money to allow district, provincial and national consultative meetings where people suggested introduction of new laws in the constitution. So all the good things that stakeholder consultative meetings adopted as the way they would need Zambia to be governed are useless in President Sata’s view?
After this one fails, it will not be the people of Zambia to blame but President Sata joining in cursing the nation to yet another failed constitution venture.
It is a curse given to our new national at Independence by our colonial masters and inherited from our own free successive governments that have made a people driven constitution unattainable in this country, 49 years after attaining self rule.
To stop this curse, it will take more than our religious beliefs, political affiliations and positions that divide the civil societies we belong to, to purge this curse from this land called Zambia.
What it will take is the courage of citizens to delete completely everything that we were given by colonial masters and inherited from the first indigenous Independent government to build a free Zambia, and claim unalienable rights bestowed upon us by GOD to be each other’s brother and sister keeper.
It is when we come to this juncture of being each others' brother and sister keeper that we will not allow ourselves to think that we should barter away our natural rights to a political party voted into office. Our political affiliation with the ruling party will no longer blind us to think that we should trust the leaders that they mean well. For that we will never go to sleep and think that a freely elected government in the two hands of a President has the legitimacy and legality to over rule 26 million pair of hands.
We will always be reminded that all we do when we vote for a government is to pledge orderliness in the protection and enjoyment of the GOD given rights—right to life, property and liberty. This we will agree can only be done through the rule of law and not rule by law. The former ensures that the strength of governance is through judicial and legislative establishments while the latter is wrongly misplaced by leaders to assume use of political power to trample over what the citizens should claim as rightly theirs.
|President Sata (r) and Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba.|
A constitution is not for a tenure of office by a few leaders, but it is for the 13 million Zambians today and their children to come. It is in the constitution where the citizens write the blueprint of the governance they aspire for. It is in its statutes that they draw the true guardian to protect the people in the exercise of their rights, which are bestowed by GOD and no one else, not even those in government should choose to skew these rights to serve the selfish interests of tenure—the inherent curse that has led Africa to destroy their nations.
From the constitution we derive our means by which national wealth is created, managed and equally appropriated to every citizen. It gives the citizens, from whom the President and members of his cabinet draw their powers, to hold leadership accountable at every moment other than on election day, and ensure leaders justly execute the affairs of the nation.
In such a state of constitution governance, a government minister cannot have powers to fire 160 nurses over a dispute involving distortions in emoluments because such differences are adjusted by legislative and judiciary prescriptions that the people agreed upon.
Therefore the awkward thinking of a sitting government should not limit the people of Zambia to write in their constitutions statutes that meet their aspirations today and in the future.
The dogma of the Patriotic Front manifesto and its ideological myopia should not become a defining factor of the kind of constitution the country needs. Zambians demand a constitution that will:
1. Allow them to start electing their President on a 50% +1 majority vote
2. Allow strong provincial councils as structures of governance to decide on appropriation of budgeted finances
3. Allow for dual citizenship
4. Parliament that approves national debt
5. Appoints ministers outside parliament
6. Commissions and parliament to approve appointments to the judiciary and chiefs of key investigative and law enforcement institutions
7. Hold political parties accountable on their democratic practices, including regular election of leaders and sources of funding
8. Voting system for representatives that ensures minorities are well represented
9. Allows the house of representative to impeach a sitting President
10. Allow for its adoption through a national referendum
11. Full package of social, cultural, economical and political rights that are judiciable
Zambians are now alert and will not allow destructive politicians to destroy their aspirations of being properly governed, safety and happiness to all its citizens regardless of where they find themselves or live today.
Therefore a new constitution short of the 11 demands above and many more must be a letter to retire someone to Chitulika village so that they go and get initiated to democratic politics.