Constitution draft extension drains Zambia’s coffers


Lusaka ‑ Despite gobbling over US$14 million during the constitution-making process, the draft of the supreme law remains far from complete. There has been concern over continued delays in completing the document.

After months of deliberations and perfecting the draft copy of the constitution, there are still some flaws that need to be ironed out among stakeholders and the government ‑ a situation that has raised concern that the process will gobble up more resources than anticipated.

Justice Minister, Wynter Kabimba, has directed the Technical Committee tasked to formulate the drafting of the constitution to print and sign only 10 copies out of the anticipated 13 million copies for debate among the citizens.

He said failure to do so would go against the appointing authority.

Minister Kabimba this past week said he had instructed the technical committee to print only 10 copies of the final draft.

He said the committee would be answerable to the appointing authority and the Zambian people if they do not sign the final report of the draft constitution.

The Technical Committee tasked to draft the Zambian new constitution has resolved not to sign the report until they receive clarification on how the final draft constitution, the draft constitution of Zambia Bill 2013, and the final report of the Technical Committee would be distributed simultaneously to the President and the General Public.

Minister Kabimba also said that the protest by the Technical Committee over his ministry’s directive to print only 10 copies of the final daft constitutional is not against him, as an individual, but against the appointing authority.

He added that the government appointed the Technical Committee and, therefore, if they choose to defy the directive by his ministry, they are, in fact, defying President Michael Sata who appointed them. The Ministry of Justice, however, said it is not coercing the Technical Committee to carry out the directive to print only 10 copies of the draft constitution because the committee works under terms of reference.

The developments in the constitution-making process, which should have been competed mid this year has riled civil society groups. Civil Society Organisations say they were disappointed with revelations that the Ministry of Justice has written to the Technical Committee to print 10 copies of the final draft.

Spokesperson for CSOs, Young African Leaders Initiative – YALI ‑ President Andrew Ntewewe, has condemned the move by government and the Ministry of Justice and wondered what the Ministry of Justice is trying to hide by denying the public access to the final draft constitution and the report.

He said the Technical Committee should refuse to sign the report until the matter is clarified. Ntewewe noted that it is wrong for the Ministry of Justice and government to try to make the public negotiate for what rightfully belongs to them.

Civil Society reiterated calls for President Sata to consider appointing a Referendum Commission and give the reform process a clear timeline.

Ntewewe has called on President Sata to, without delays, give the date to the Technical Committee when the final document will be handed over to government.

He urged the Technical Committee to stick to its earlier promise to simultaneously give the President and the public the final draft constitution.

In a statement, Technical Committee spokesperson, Ernest Mwansa, said the committee has been instructed to print 10 copies of the final draft constitution for handover to the appointing authority and has, therefore, found it inappropriate to sign the report.

He adds that the committee has also resolved that the Chairperson and the Vice-Chairperson of the committee should seek an audience with the appointing authority with a view of communicating the committee’s obligation to abide by its terms of reference, which are at variance with the new directives from the Ministry of Justice.

Initially, Minister Kabimba had stated that the committee should conclude its programme of work by June 30, 2013, but later extended the deadline to end of December.

The extension means a further 44 million kwacha-rebased (US$9 000) will be spent on the constitution through a supplementary budget.

November 2013
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