JUSTICE Minister Mulambo Haimbe says the estimated cost of the constitution review process is K45 million.
Speaking on Hot FM’s Beyond the Headlines, Wednesday, Haimbe said the estimated amount did not include holding a referendum.
He said K5 million had already been allocated in the 2022 budget towards the process.
“The Constitution review process will necessitate the undertaking of certain legislative work. With the Bill of Rights itself, we have to go through a referendum process. The cost, let us start from what we have allocated in the budget, it is K5 million. The internal legislative processes that I have talked about, maybe I can give a little more detail include looking at proposed ways in which the process should be undertaken, include, a suggested road map and similar mechanisms which are subject to approval by Parliament. In doing our scoping exercise, the estimated cost that we have come up with looks like somehow in the range of K40 million there about, for us to be able to do the entire process outside of the actual referendum,” he said.
“So the consultation with the people, provincial stakeholder meetings, that is subject to whether the body that will be put in place to review the actual Constitution takes that as its costs as well. It might be less, it might be more, but for the purposes of taking that important step of starting the processes, our estimates are in the range of K40 million. Over and above the K5 million that has been set aside in the budget. So it is actually 45 so to speak.”
He said government would play a facilitating role in the Constitutional review process.
“The responsibility falls on the Ministry of Justice to propose a road map. The way we are envisaging it is that we will set the ball rolling and then the body or entity that will be put in place to actually do the Constitution review will set its [own] terms of reference, and will set its own road map. The road map will be determined by the body that will do the actual constitution review. Again the whole essence is to ensure we have transparency, we have buy-in from all stakeholders from the process. I take it that it will be inclusive and I think that I can disclose that is what made civil society quite happy that more or less we are singing from the same hymn sheet. That is the intention going forward that government will simply facilitate and let the key stakeholders run with the process from end to end until we have a document that is capable of being put forward on the floor of the House, for those aspects outside of part three and ultimately for us to have a referendum,” Haimbe said.
Haimbe said he was hopeful that the process could be concluded in 18 months once it was approved by Cabinet.
“This is not a process that government must own alone, we must all own it as citizens and we would also plead for our cooperative partners and our friends out there, it is a costly endeavor. For us to do it properly, we need everybody to cooperate, to come in and lend a helping hand. We are hoping that this process can be undertaken within a reasonable time frame not exceeding 18 months from end to end once Cabinet gives its approval, which is sort of the timeline that we have seen in the past with regards to Constitution making processes. It will be intensive and it will need all of us to have skin in the game. It is also an opportunity to appeal to the opposition as key stakeholders that this is not a process that should be politicized, it is a process that is for all of us as Zambians. So let them come to the table genuinely when the material time comes and contribute. Then when we get to Parliament, we will have a product that we all agree to and we can easily enact,” Haimbe said.
He said there was need to review the Constitution holistically.
“As long as we have a process accepted by everyone, as long as we have no digression from those processes and as long as we are able to do this in a timely fashion so that we don’t mar the constitution making process with the forthcoming elections then we are all good. Ultimately the amendments could be such a nature that they would result in a holistic review or there could be just certain provisions that would be amended, but looking at the state of our Constitution now, I believe that there is a necessity to look at it from page one to the last page and do a holistic review,” he said.
“Especially that in addition to the other parts of the Constitution, we are looking at part three as well. We intend to have a look at the Bill of Rights. It is our hope and prayer that within a period of 18 months, we would have concluded this process. However, that is subject to what the people who are actually going to do the review will say. From us, from a facilitators point of view, the initial sort of road map that we are looking at gives an indicative timeframe of not more than 18 months.”
When asked if former president Edgar Lungu’s immunity would be lifted if found with a case to answer, Haimbe said that could only be done if it is discovered that there is a probable cause to take the former president down that route.
“The investigation must prove that there is a prima facie case, a case worth taking to Parliament to consider for removal of the immunity. Before that happens, it will be really a witch-hunt to talk about removal of immunity. Also when these things are done, the people’s buy-in is always gotten, so they will understand the extent of the investigation and the prima-facie case that had been made if we get to that point. I know certainly that law enforcement agencies are leaving no stone unturned, there will be no sacred cow past, present or future. Even amongst ourselves, right now as we are currently in government we are aware that they will not spare us if we go astray,” said Haimbe.
“They are doing their work and if it comes out that they have in fact a case worth bringing to Parliament, at that point it would be considered. But the point I really was making in addition to what you have stated, we have so much more to do than focus the attention of ourselves collectively on an individual, in terms of the debate whether or not to remove his immunity. That debate can only be informed when objective work had been done and indeed it has been found that there is probable cause to take the former president down that route. As at now, the people of Zambia are hungry, the people of Zambia are in need, the youths out there need jobs. They need us to formulate policies that would take care of their interests and really that is where we are all focused in trying to get us out of this difficult situation that we inherited. That debate will come to a logical conclusion, I believe in the not distant future.”