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Zambia Minority Lawmakers Demand New Constitution

  • Peter Clottey

Zambia's President Michael Sata speaks to journalists at the 18th African Union summit in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, Jan. 2012 file photo.

Zambia's President Michael Sata speaks to journalists at the 18th African Union summit in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, Jan. 2012 file photo.

Opposition and independent parliamentarians in Lusaka say they will launch a protest in parliament on Thursday to pressure President Michael Sata’s government to outline its plans for the new constitution it promised to citizens, according to Jack Mwiimbu, a legislator from the opposition, United Party for National Development (UPND).

The minority in parliament protested Wednesday after accusing Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba of failing to disclose the administration’s roadmap for a new constitution, prompting the speaker of parliament to adjourn until Thursday.

“Members of parliament have decided that and have resolved that even tomorrow [Thursday] if no tangible direction pertaining to the constitutional making process, the members of parliament will continue with the protests,” said Mwiimbu.

He acknowledged that the planned protests will disrupt parliamentary proceedings.

The ruling Patriotic Front promised to deliver a “people-driven” constitution to Zambians within 90 days in power, during the last general election campaign. Opposition and civil society groups, say now after three years in power the administration has reneged on its promise.

Mwiimbu says opposition and civil society groups have run out of patience with government statements on the issue.

“Contradictory statements have been made by the president and other senior leaders of the Patriotic Front government to the effect that they don’t need a new constitution. Hence the movement by parliamentarians and other interested parties like the church and civil society, to agitate for the enactment of a new constitution through a referendum,” said Mwiimbu.

Zambia has yet to get a new constitution after 19 years and four different attempts by constitutional review commissions at a significant cost to the taxpayers, according to Mwiimbu.

Supporters of the ruling party say the government needs time to establish a new constitution -- but Mwiimbu disagrees.

“They have been given the adequate time they had requested. They informed members of the public and assured that within 90 days of them assuming office, they were going to deliver the constitution to the people. This is now the third year in office and nothing has been happening,” said Mwiimbu.

Recently, a constitutional review commission’s draft proposal was leaked to the press, which observers say prompted the government to stall on the entire process.

But Mwiimbu says the government needs to act on a roadmap that can be understandable to the public.

“I don’t think issues would have arisen where if they had given a definite roadmap that is clear and acceptable to all members of the public, [and], that is where the bone of contention is. They have never done that,” said Mwiimbu.

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