Battle lines drawn over Zambia constitution

Technical committee rejects government's desire for secrecy

Richard Lee's picture

Author

Strategic communications for WWF

November 11th, 2013

Zambia’s long, drawn-out constitutional drafting process just got very, very interesting.

In a stunning move, the Technical Committee tasked with completing the final draft of the new constitution has refused to sign its final report after the government ordered it to hand the final draft over to President Sata – and President Sata, alone.

In a strongly-worded statement, the Technical committee announced that due to its “determination to comply with the Terms of Reference”, which mandated the body to publicly disclose the outcomes of the constitution-making process, and to “keep its promise to the public as a way of enhancing public confidence in the current constitution-making process, [it would] not sign the Report until clarification has been given on how the Final Draft Constitution, the Draft Constitution of Zambia Bill, 2013 and the Final Report of the Technical Committee will be distributed”.

It is remarkable rebuke to the government and particularly to the Justice Ministry, which ordered the committee to print only 10 copies and hand them all over to the presidency – in the face of demands from the public, opposition parties and civil society. And clearly the technical committee as well.

It will be fascinating to see how the government reacts to this latest criticism. The Patriotic Front pledged during the election campaign back in 2011 that it would produce a new constitution within 90 days. Instead, it has taken two years of discussions and disputes – and increasingly bitter confrontations between the PF government and groups calling for the draft to be finalized and to be made available for all Zambians to see.

President Sata and his Justice Minister are not renowned for backing down. But it is hard to see how they can stick with their secretive approach now that the technical drafting committee has come out in favour of publicising the final version.

With many questions being asked about the nature of the Sata government – including is it becoming increasingly authoritarian? – its response to the latest twist in the constitutional saga could provide some clearer answers.

 

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