Govt cautious with constitution making process

         PRETORIA – GOVERNMENT says it is approaching the constitution-making process with care to prevent the exercise from collapsing as was the case in the past.

And Government has urged Zambians living abroad not to base their decisions on reports carried by some online media publications as these were misleading.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Harry Kalaba, said in Pretoria on May 19 that he sympathised with Zambian diplomats because most of them based their opinions about what was happening in Zambia on some online publications which have only been created to discredit individuals and the country as a whole.

“Zambia is well. I know you get a lot of information from online media, most of which have been planted to discredit Zambia. These online publications would only get someone`s name correct while the rest of the article is baseless. That`s not how Journalism works,” Mr. Kalaba said.

He was speaking when he met diplomatic staff at the Zambian High Commission in Pretoria. This was when he stopped over in South Africa on his way to Angola for an official visit.

On the constitution, the Minister assured that Government will give Zambians a constitution that will stand the test of time but that it will not do so at the pace that “detractors” wanted things to move. He said the draft document and the report will soon be presented to Cabinet by Justice Minister, Wynter Kabimba.

The Minister advised that people should realise that the several attempts made in the past to re-work the constitution were partial amendments to the document whereas the current exercise involved coming up with a completely new document. He observed that the previous exercises failed because politics took precedence over people`s interests and that it was not the desire of President Sata and that of his Government for the current process to end the same way.

He said the PF Government will always stand with the people unlike some political parties which today wanted to come out as champions after taking part in constitution-making processes such as the National Constitution Committee which failed to come up with a revised constitution after gobbling huge amounts of tax-payers money. He said Government wanted to move systematically and chronologically and take everyone on board including the poor who may not have been represented when the technical committee was receiving submissions.

The Minister said there was no need for some sections of society to call for a road map for the process as this has been in place from the time the technical committee was appointed and went round the country to gather views from the people.

He said it would be dangerous to try to hurry the process as this would still be constrained by certain factors which could emanate as a result of some of the submissions to the technical committee requiring amending the Bill of Rights in the current constitution. If such a thing were to happen, a referendum would then have to be held and one of the pre-requisites in such a situation is a census and then a voting process which requires at least 50 per cent of the eligible voters in the country taking part.

The Minister pointed out that apart from being expensive; this process would be long and tedious.

Mr. Kalaba said Government could not be said to be delaying the process when in fact it is the one that directed the technical committee to wind up after continued extensions to the drafting process. He said had Government wanted to delay the process, it would have left the technical committee to continue with its unlimited extensions.

The Minister also took time to update the staff on Government`s development agenda saying Zambia has now been turned into a “construction site” as a result of the various infrastructure projects being under taken. He cited roads, schools, universities, health facilities and railway lines as some of the major unprecedented projects underway. He said the PF Government is already set to work on a total of over 10, 000 kilometers of road network in the short space of time it has been in office while the MMD only did about 4,000 kilometers for the 20 years it governed.

Mr. Kalaba said Zambia will not be among countries in the region that would be affected by food shortages following a projected bumper harvest of 3.3 million tonnes of maize this season.

He urged Zambians to be vigorous in marketing the country so that it regains its leadership role in the region as was the case in the times of Dr. Kaunda’s reign. He said the PF was alive to this fact and that was why President Sata has brought dignity to Dr. Kaunda which he had lost during the MMD.

“If you don’t respect your own parents, how would you expect other people to do so,” he noted.

Mr. Kalaba commended the Zambian Mission in Pretoria for the successes it has continued to record in strengthening bilateral relations with South Africa as well as in facilitating investment inflows to Zambia.

Zambia’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Mr. Muyeba Chikonde, commended Mr. Kalaba for taking time off his transit period to visit the Mission. His Excellency Chikonde further said that Missions always benefitted a lot from such interaction as this helped raise the zeal to perform better. He said this also served as an opportunity for Missions to be briefed so that they were current with on-going developmental projects and enable them understands Government policy direction.

He said Zambia has benefitted substantially from DBSA and that the country could still tap into this investment portfolio for the development of toll roads through a private-public partnership arrangement in order to free in-house resources for other social programs.

Issued by:

Nicky Shabolyo