Don’t Wait for Violence to Deliver Constitution, warns LAZ

By IAfrica
In Zambia
Aug 16th, 2014

Roy ClarkeThe Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) says Zambia should not wait until there is violence to put in place a legal framework on the constitution making process.

And Alliance for a Better Zambia President Father Frank Bwalya says there is need to chart new ways of pressuring the government into delivering a people driven constitution.

Meanwhile, various members of the audience demanded that the struggle for a new constitution move from the comfort of talk shops to the streets.

Popular social and political commentator Roy Clarke said Zambians do not know the difference between a constitution and constipation.

During a Civil Society Constitution Coalition discussion forum held at the University of Zambia, LAZ Vice President Linda Kasonde said even despotic regimes like Zimbabwe had beaten Zambia at constitutionalism.

The discussion was held under the theme “Constitution Making Process Impasse: How can we resolve it?”

Kasonde said some countries had to undergo violent episodes before a legal framework was put in place.

“What we have to do as a country is learn from other countries that have been successful in creating good constitutions. We have examples on the continent we have Kenya, South Africa and even Zimbabwe this is something that we should all learn from, even autocratically controlled Zimbabwe has done it,” Kasonde said.

“And unfortunately it took violence in all those three countries for people to come and sit together and create that legal framework. But that has been the difference between having a good constitution and not. So I think that is what we need to put to work.”

She said: “I think Zambia can learn from these examples. I do not see why we have to go through a violent situation to learn from other people. It just takes people to sit down and realize the importance of this as you know a constitution is important in facilitating the development of a country.”

Kasonde said the turnaround by the Patriotic Front government was shocking as they had placed highly the constitution making process in their campaign and party manifesto.

“It is a bit strange because as you know the PF manifesto did advocate for a new constitution so we are rather surprised at the turn of events,” she said.

Kasonde said the recent meeting by stakeholders with the Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba did not yield the desired results.

“I think you are aware that LAZ alongside other members of the civil society went to a meeting with the Ministry of Justice, you may have seen it in the media,” she said.

“It did not yield the results we thought it would because the government seems to be sticking to a particular line and they are not moving from it. So something needs to change to allow us to move forward, the impasse must be resolved because we don’t want to go the route we have been where millions of kwacha have been lost.”

She said the planned honking on Fridays by members of the grand coalition had not taken off as members of the public were scared.

“You also have to remember we have made efforts; there was a move for honking on Fridays. I think people are afraid to participate in such activities so we also call for the sacrifice of the public to participate otherwise we will be seen as the elite who are doing nothing,” she said.

Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection Executive Director Father Leonard Chiti said Zambians needed to revise their soft stance towards injustice.

“I have sat in meetings with the Vice President Guy Scott who has said that Zambians are too nice. We need to change this attitude to ensure that we are more demanding of our leaders,” he said.

Fr Chiti also challenged young people to take up the challenge of demanding for a people driven constitution.

And Alliance for a Better Zambia president Fr Frank Bwalya said demonstrations were part of the process of dialogue.

“Maybe it is time for organizers of this forum and other concerned citizens and stakeholders to begin to chart a different way altogether,” he said.

“By the way demonstrations are part of dialogue because when you demonstrate and I want to believe the root of the word to demonstrate is to express yourself. It is in human nature, that when you are expressing yourself to someone, and they are not listening, you want to hold them maybe by the jacket or shirt to make them listen.”

And satirist Roy Clarke likened the constitution impasse to constipation.

“It seems to me we do not seem like the cartoon to know the difference between constitution and constipation, with this impasse we have constipation it is a constitutional form of constipation and with this kind of constipation we can’t get anywhere,” said Clarke.

“And if we are talking about our methods, is it dialogue, is it going to be protests in the streets what is it we are dealing with? What is this impasse and why have we got it.”

He said: “Let me explain it simply, a constitution is a set of rules which people give to a government and the people say, by this set of rules you are allowed to govern us and if you don’t govern us by these rules you are out.”

Clarke added: “And the Zambian people have never set such a set of rules because we are stuck with what the colonial government gave us. Now we are trying to give our government a set of rules and I think we have tried for the third time now.”

“…but we as government do not like the set of rules which you have given us and we are going to write a set of rules by which we would rather rule you that is the basis of the impasse and it is not an impasse which on the face of is open to dialogue it looks like a very firm form of constipation, solid so solid that it has been with us for 10 years. We give our ideas, we give our demands of what we want but we have never got any output we always get constipation.

Various contributors among them former UNZASU president Vincent Chaile said that the civil society had done enough talking and needed to step up.

He said the next time the grand coalition held a gathering it should be a demonstration.

Among the notables in the audience were rights activist Sarah Longwe, Action Aid Executive Director Pamela Chisanga, SACCORD Executive Director Boniface Chembe, CSPR Director Mwilla Mulumbi and FODEP Executive Director MacDonald Chipenzi.

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