Over the years, the people’s call for a Republican Constitution that is expected to stand the test of time has been loud and clear. Unfortunately, we have wasted a good portion of our country’s meager resources on financing the Chona Constitution Commission, the Mvunga Constitution Review Commission, the Mwanakatwe Constitution Review Commission, the Mung’omba Constitutional Review Commission, and the National Constitutional Conference without coming up with such a Constitution.
It is shameful that after 47 years of political independence, we have failed to give ourselves an acceptable Constitution—a Constitution for all Zambians, today and forever! The Patriotic Front (PF) should, therefore, be commended for promising to deliver a new Republican Constitution that will stand the test of time in 90 days.
However, the ad hoc Task Force to be constituted to work on the Constitution should be given one year to complete its work rather than 90 days if it is to do a thorough job in addressing the many contentious issues, errors and inconsistencies in previous constitutional review efforts.
The Task Force should preferably consist of at most 30 citizens who do not currently hold leadership positions in non-governmental organizations (NGOs), political parties which have MPs in Parliament, religious institutions, the labor movement, the legislature, the executive, the judiciary, the civil service, and the House of Chiefs.
The terms of reference for the Task Force should, among other things, be to identify and examine contentious issues, errors and inconsistencies in: (a) the 1996 Republican constitution; and (b) the draft constitutions of the Chona Constitution Commission, the Mvunga Constitution Review Commission, the Mwanakatwe Constitution Review Commission, the Mung’omba Constitutional Review Commission, and the National Constitutional Conference.
Moreover, the Task Force should be required to prepare a provisional Draft Constitution based on its findings. And citizens should, thereafter, be given at least 90 days in which they can present their comments on the content of the provisional Draft Constitution, followed by the preparation of a final Draft Constitution based on refinements made upon consideration of the people’s comments. A nationwide referendum can, thereafter, be organized to gauge whether or not the final Draft Constitution reflects the will and the desires and aspirations of the Zambian people.
The role of Parliament and the Republican president in this endeavor should be limited to the provision of financial and material resources to the constitution-making process, and to assent to the final output of the process after the referendum.
Of necessity, the output of the constitution-making process should be widely acceptable to the citizenry. In this regard, one may wish to share the following wise words of Father Joe Komakoma excerpted from an article entitled “Government Must Respect the People’s Wishes,” which appeared in The Post Newspaper of October 13, 1995: “As the supreme law of the land, the Constitution must be recognized and respected as embodying the sovereign will of the majority of our people.”
Preferably, the new Republican constitution should include the following:
(a) Provision for the appointment of ministers by the Republican President from among persons qualified to be elected as members of parliament, but who are not members of parliament;
(b) Provision for the election of the Republican President under a system where the winning candidate should receive not less than 50 percent plus one vote of the valid votes cast;
(c) Provision for the Republican Vice President to be elected as a running mate to any citizen seeking to be elected as Republican President;
(d) Provision for a consultative, transparent and accountable debt contraction law designed to give power to Parliament to oversee and approve all loans to be contracted by the government on behalf of Zambians; and
(e) Clear guarantees relating to the social, economic and other rights and freedoms of citizens.