Zambia’s long-awaited National Constitutional Conference gets underway Wednesday. Among the most controversial issues the conference will consider are whether Zambia should continue to be called a Christian nation and whether it should retain the death penalty.
A Constitution Review Commission appointed by President Levy Mwanawasa recommended that Zambia should continue to be called a Christian nation and that the death penalty be retained pending a national referendum.
Mike Mulongoti is Zambia’s minister of information. From the capital Lusaka, he told VOA Zambians should be ready to discuss all the issues.
“The conference is a culmination of a decision that was made by some meeting of political parties presidents in Zambia to chart a way forward in our constitutional making process. Earlier in 2004 there was a Constitution Review Commission that went around the country gathering views on how to put in place a new constitution and what to include in the new constitution. The ultimate aim is that now this body called the National Constitutional Conference, which is now being convened and is going to start its plenary sitting on Wednesday, the 19th of December, “ he said.
The Constitution Review Commission appointed by President Levy Mwanawasa recommended that Zambia should continue to be called a Christian nation because the majority of Zambians are Christians.
Critics argued that the declaration is tantamount to declaring Christianity as a state religion. Mulongoti said the Constitution Conference would have a chance to weigh both arguments.
“The draft constitution that was produced by the Mung’omba Commission made a number of recommendations with submissions that were made by the people. And all these submissions are going to be tabled in the plenary of the Constitutional Conference, and if the Constitutional Conference feels that it is the way to proceed by declaring Zambia to be a Christian nation, then it would be part of the new constitution. But as it is now, all those are recommendations that are being given to the conference to consider,” Mulongoti said.
The conference will also consider the recommendation of the Constitution Review Constitution that the death penalty be retained pending a national referendum. Mulongoti said everything would be considered at the conference.
“Everything is being left to the conference to consider, and if the Constitutional Conference feels that the death penalty must be retained in our constitution, they can recommend for it to go to parliament for enactment. So as it is now, there is no predetermination of the outcome. All those are recommendations among the many,” he said.
Mulongoti said a review of the Zambian constitution was necessary because there has been so much debate about the feasibility of the current constitution.
“There’s been several amendments that were made, and also in the 1996 constitution amendment brought about whether the president of the Republic must have both parents Zambians. So all these things are being looked into,” Mulongoti said.