MPOROKOSO PF member of parliament Brian Mundubile says there are insufficient funds in the 2022 budget to fund a consultative constitution process.
In an interview, Monday, Mundubile noted that the expectations of a consultative constitution making process were high among citizens.
“On the issue of the Constitution, initially we were very worried when we heard that stakeholders had started submitting to the constitution making process. We hear the Minister came back to say these submissions were actually unsolicited. There is nothing wrong with receiving unsolicited submissions, but we want to repeat that the expectations of the Zambian people on the constitution making process [are high]. After what happened with the Constitution Amendment Bill number 10 where it was said that the consultations were not sufficient, I think a lot of arguments were made to the effect that we needed a wider consensus if we want to amend the Constitution. Those arguments raged for close to a year plus,” he said.
“As a result of that, the constitution amendment bill number 10 did not receive the much required two-thirds support in Parliament and it collapsed. So what is required now is going with the same arguments that our friends in the UPND advanced at the time, we expect a process that is going to be inclusive, a process that is going to be very consultative beginning with the road map. So it will not be a silent commencement. We expect ministerial statements from the Minister telling the nation how they intend to carry this particular process. The roadmap must be clear to the Zambian people.”
He said the 2022 budget could not fund a consultative constitution process.
“If the arguments that were advanced earlier are to be considered, we expect first of all this process to be fully funded. When you look at the budget this year, I don’t think we are ready to commence that process because there is basically no money to pay for that process. If we are going to go to the grassroots to consult the Zambian people at that level coming up upwards we expect a bigger budget committed to this particular process. Many times we talk about wider consultation, consensus without going into some level of detail,” Mundubile said.
“What is required is also some education on the Constitution, meaning that part of the roadmap should include the education of the citizens about this so called Constitution, what is their role in this particular process? What should they expect to see? The moment they are enlightened, they will be able to make a reasonable submission to the process. Because it is not enough to go to them now when they may not fully appreciate what their role is, they may not fully appreciate what should be included in the Constitution but with a proper budget, we should start with educating our citizens. This has happened before in many jurisdictions. So after educating them, then we can begin to go back to them to get their submissions after which we can say the process is consultative.”
Mundubile said there was need for a general consensus in the constitution making process.
“We also warn ourselves of one thing, a constitution is not a document for the elite, it is a document for all. The consensus that we require is general consensus, it is not a consensus between two political parties which you may call partisan consensus or elitist consensus. The technical experts can be hired at some stage of assembling a document together, but the citizens must be responsible for the content. This is an embodiment of sovereign will and rights of the people. Every person has a right to contribute to this particular process and not to be left to a few people in the name of experts. Arguments are there that there have been a number of constitution review commissions which have collected a lot of information and experts can simply extract information from there,” he said.
“That conclusion should come from the people. If the people feel they have submitted enough, let us go to the people, first of all educate them and go back to them and let them tell us ‘that even if you have come, the submissions that were made previously are sufficient to cover us’. If you look at when these submissions were made, most of the youths today who are voters and decision makers may not even have been born. So I think the dynamics have changed on the ground and we are looking out for the youths who are tomorrow’s leaders. So if we are going to include their aspirations, I still believe that we need to go back to the people and get fresh submissions.”
And Mundubile said the refinement of the Public Order Act should not take long because the process was already started by PF.
“On the Public Order Act, I expect it to be done very quickly because a lot of work was done. Remember that there was actually a bill presented to Parliament and it was deferred when the leader of opposition then raised an issue concerning the enactment of the Constitution. He said it was going to be neater if we waited first of all and amended the Constitution before amending the Public Order Act. So in short, if there are any changes to the bill that was presented, I expect them to be very minor, given that particular process carried out by the Minister of Justice invited submissions from all stakeholders,” said Mundubile.
“So meaning that in terms of consultations, I feel and believe that there was enough consultation on the Public Order Act and stakeholders did submit on that particular process. So what is contained in the bill is a product of wider consultation on that. Of course it doesn’t stop the executive from consulting further so that nobody feels left behind. The process was already started by the PF and it actually even came to Parliament. So that is why I say that if the current government needs to do further consultation, of course they can do it but it shouldn’t take too long because a lot of work was already done.”