“People driven, popularized constitutionalism in Zambia is our agenda”
Matero Community Hall played host to a historic moment in the life of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Zambia, to mark the launch of the Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CiSCA). A new chapter was opened to champion the cause for a better constitution that will have the interests of Zambians at heart, and most of all, will stand the test of time. Different men and women from all walks of life gathered to be part of the launch of what is to be the bedrock to push for a better constitution.
Speaking at the launch CiSCA Chairperson Bishop Mambo stressed from the outset that CiSCA was not going to fear anyone apart from God but will endeavor to respect all leaders, “We will put God first and fear Him but we will not fear our leaders. We will respect our leaders but not fear them.” And moderator of the day as well as Committee Member MacDonald Chipenzi emphasised that only God was to be feared and not man “we need to fear only God and not man because this cause is not going to be easy.”
Vice Chairperson Mrs Pamela Chisanga pointed out in her speech that Zambia deserves a good constitution and that Zambia has come a long way in as far as seeking a better constitution was concerned.
“Zambia has been on a long, tedious and costly journey of reviewing and amending its constitution. This has been necessitated by calls by Zambians for a constitution that is people driven, that respects and upholds the civil, political, economic and social
rights of citizens and one that will stand the test of time. Our constitution making processes have sadly been hijacked by political interests. The recent constitution making process initiated by the late President Michael Sata in 2011 (May His Soul Rest in Peace) is the latest in this series of constitution making blunders witnessed in this country. Sadly, our country, after 20 years of various constitutional reforms, has not been able to enact a constitution that meets the aspirations of its citizens.”
She further bemoaned the failure of the recent referendum owing to rigidity and deliberate maneuvers by politicians to ensure it failed “Zambians have been looking forward to a constitution that would eventually entrench the rule of law, reduce impunity by those in power, decentralize decision making and development processes, assures independence of state governance institutions and above all recognizes and guarantees economic and social rights as fundamental for the well-being and development of the people of this country. It is sad that Zambians were again short changed in a process devoid of any political commitment by those in power to give Zambians what they wanted. The referendum was held alongside the general elections and was therefore highly politicized. There was no real sensitization and engagement of citizens to understand and participate in the referendum. Whatever sensitization was undertaken was merely a window dressing exercise as the referendum was deliberately set up to fail. Civil society raised these concerns with government but these concerns were ignored. We, as concerned citizens, are alive to the fact that it is not enough just to have a good constitution. The constitution must be respected; it must be upheld. We note, with a lot of regret, overtures by the current government to mutilate and invalidate our constitution. Our democracy can only mature and thrive if we respect and uphold the supreme law of the land – the constitution and where state institutions protect all citizens and not individuals.”
In view of the foregoing she outlined why CiSCA formation was inevitable, considering the past attitude by politicians and the recent stance by government on the
Mrs Chisanga pointed out that this agenda will therefore focus on firstly, pushing for the holding of a referendum to enact the Bill of Rights by saying that “CiSCA is saddened that the one part of the constitution that directly benefits and protects the citizens of Zambia has been left out of the constitution due
to insistence on partial amendments to the constitution and embedment of the referendum on the expanded bill of rights in hotly politically charged general elections. The well-being of Zambians must be a priority for our government. Government should therefore not be afraid to enshrine fundamental economic and social rights for its citizens such as the right to education, health, water and sanitation. Any government that refuses to recognize these rights for its citizens does not mean well for its citizens and must be questioned.” Furthermore, Mrs Chisanga told the gathering that CiSCA will push
for the upholding of the rule of law, respecting the supremacy and sanctity of our constitution. “CiSCA will push for the upholding of the rule of law, respecting the supremacy and sanctity of our constitution. CiSCA is committed to ensuring that the constitution of this country is not wantonly mutilated or invalidated by the actions of those in power. CiSCA will therefore embark on civic education to ensure that citizens of this country can stand up to defend their constitution and to claim their rights. CiSCA has learnt a lot of lessons from previous engagements in the constitution making process and is therefore well equipped to engage in this process in a manner that is participatory and transparent and has a positive outcome for all. We encourage all well-meaning citizens to join us, let us reason and act together to do the right thing for our country for the present and future generations. CiSCA remains open to engage with government on constitution making and constitutionalism in Zambia. We invite all Zambians to be part of this journey to make our country an example of a good constitutional democracy that carries citizens on board, a place where each and every Zambian has the opportunity to realise their full potential, where our fundamental rights and freedoms are protected, where justice and fairness prevail and where the rule of law – our constitution – remains supreme.”
The Guest of honour of the day and representing government, through the Ministry of Justice, Mr Cham Kalimbika assured the delegates that government’s doors were wide open for CiSCA. “Our presence here is a testament that government is open for consultations as well as to work with you. our doors are wide open.”