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Good Constitution is useless when lawbreakers are in powerBy Diggers Editor on 2 Dec 2017
“It has become quite clear to everybody; anyone who has cared to study the Constitution has come to the conclusion that our 2016 amendment of the Constitution was hurriedly done,” so says Minister of Justice Given Lubinda.
He adds that this is not a time for anyone to apportion blame, but to acknowledge the fact that it was an exercise that we all carried out as a country. But soon as he warned against blaming one another for a shambolic job, he pointed his finger at civil society organisations that were pushing for its quick release.
“There were some people who were really agitating for the Constitution to be adopted without any amendments, and others were pushing that the amended Constitution was being delayed. So as a country we went ahead and adopted that Constitution, but now it has become clear that there are some articles in the Constitution that don’t speak to each other. There are gaps, which lawyers refer to as lacunae, which require refinement. Already, in February or March, I appealed to various stakeholders and Zambians to make submissions to the Ministry of Justice for us to start the process of refining the Constitution. I will be making a ministerial statement in Parliament to inform the country on the status, but it is true that we are making moves to refine the Constitution and we have made tremendous progress,” said minister Lubinda.
Firstly, we agree with Mr Lubinda that our Constitution was released in a hurry. Many concerns raised by stakeholders were not addressed. We recall that that the Non Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC) made serious observations that there was cherry-picking of Articles by the PF which the ruling party wanted to have adopted in the final document. But before this and many other concerns were addressed and amicably resolved by stakeholders, the chapter was closed, the document was lumped on the floor of the National Assembly. Without even reading or understanding the provisions, the MPs cast their votes in approval, some of them, without even realising that the document was barring them from returning to Parliament because they did not have grade 12 certificates.
Almost immediately, government spent hundreds of thousands of kwacha to organise an unprecedented public event at the National Heroes stadium where President Lungu was to assent to the Constitution. Dance troupes were called in to perform, as well as some famous gospel singers because at that time, the President was highly regarded as a God fearing man. During the signing ceremony, President Lungu bragged that the PF was an action-oriented party and he was eager to deliver. All in a hurry, President Lungu whipped out his pen to turn the proposed draft constitution into law; and we actually recall that he hurriedly put a wrong date on the document before the Chief Justice corrected him.
What followed were praises from hand-to-mouth political party leaders, hero-worshipping President Lungu for exhibiting rare courage of giving Zambians a ‘new’ Constitution, something which previous presidents had failed to do. They saluted him for releasing a “people driven Constitution that would stand a taste of time”.
But here we are already going back to the drawing board; here we are now blaming stakeholders for the mess. Everybody can now see that the President, his ministers and PF members of parliament did not care about the contents of the Constitution. They simply wanted to gain political mileage out of it.
Lubinda can claim that NGOs pushed government into hurriedly releasing the document, but these are the same NGOs that previously pushed Levy Mwanawasa, Rupiah Banda, and Michael Sata, they never put a gun to the heads of any of these past presidents to release the Constitution without due consideration of its provisions. The truth is that the PF wanted to make the release of the Constitution a campaign song ahead of August 2016. They wanted to present President Lungu as Superman to the voters. They wasted public resources to produce a bad Constitution meant to deceive the people and they want to waste some more now through the so-called “refining” process.
Secondly, we also agree with Mr Lubinda that our Constitution has serious flaws. It has confusing clauses that contradict each other. Some of these ambiguous clauses are responsible for creating a divided nation that we are still struggling to unite, a year after the elections.
But that being the case, we don’t think a good Constitution will change anything in Zambia under the PF administration. We already have some good laws in this country which have publicly been disregarded by those who wield political power. Police officers are also enforcing laws according to the desires of those who are in government. In Zambia, the law is what the PF says it is, not what is in the Constitution. So of what value will a good Constitution be? Even if we correct the clauses and make them speak to each other, how will that help with government leaders who don’t speak to the Constitution?
Already, we have a President who is on record saying he does not support the ruling made by the Constitutional Court against ministers who illegally stayed in office after dissolution of Parliament. How can his ministers obey court orders if the President doesn’t respect Judiciary? And just how special is President Lungu that only his interpretation of the law should matter? Which special law school did the President attend which president Hildah Chibomba and her Constitutional Court team missed?
Yes, we have heard President Lungu boasting that he is a learned senior member of the bar, but maybe that’s where the problem is because even at the bar there are rules. You can’t start insulting people just because you are a big buyer.
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