Zambian CSOs demand constitutional timetable
CSOs also outline series of non-negotiable principles
With concerns growing over the future of Zambia’s constitutional review process, an unprecedented coalition of civil society groups today called on the government to announce a concrete timetable leading to a referendum – and highlighted 10 minimum conditions that the draft constitution and process must adhere to.
Following a two-day meeting, the groups welcomed yesterday’s statement by the Minister of Justice, Wynter Kabimba, that the technical committee should produce a draft constitution by June 30th since the process is too important to delay – and has already cost KR100 million. But the groups would be willing to engage with the technical committee if it requests a temporary extension so as to better understand the basis for the request – and to decide whether or not the organisations could support an extension.
However, the civil society groups – which actually represent over 260 organisations across the country – also want the government to take the next critical step by providing a clear roadmap for the rest of the process, including key dates (such as publication of the final draft, appointment of referendum commissioners, national civic education campaign etc) along the way to the eventual referendum in 2014.
The referendum should also be clearly budgeted for and should involve voters choosing either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the entire draft constitution – and not voting on specific sections.
Along with this need for a legitimate process, the civil society groups were also very clear about the fact that the draft constitution had to include 9 basic principles otherwise it would not meet the aspirations of the Zambian people, who have already experienced four unsuccessful constitutional processes and who are committed to a new people-driven constitution that will stand the test of time.
The organisations also stated that they would not be able to campaign for the draft constitution’s adoption if the correct process was not followed and if the draft lacked any of the following basic principles:
- Enjoyment and enforcement of fundamental rights
- Equality before the law and adherence to the Rule of Law
- Clear separation of powers
- Amendments requiring majority support
- Active representation of the people
- Recognition for traditional leaders and customs
- Decentralised government with real devolved powers
- Creation of independent and impartial public bodies and commissions
- Land protection
Adopting the basic minimums at the end of their meeting, the civil society groups agreed that the constitutional review process was too important for the future of Zambia to be allowed to proceed in silence, without a clear timeframe and without clear guidelines about what constitutes the basis of an appropriate and progressive people-driven constitution, which would help to promote human rights, entrench democracy and support sustainable socio-economic development for all.
The groups that were present at Chisamba included the following: Civil Society Constitution Coalition; Foundation for Democratic Process; Health Care Christian Fellowship; Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection; Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zambia; NGO Coordinating Council; Oasis Forum; Operation Young Vote; Panos Institute Southern Africa; Southern Africa Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes; University of Zambia Radio; Women and Law in Southern Africa; Women for Change; Young African Leaders Initiative; Zambia Community Media Forum; Zambia Council for Social Development; and Zambian Voice;