WILA Mung'omba says the defeat of the two constitution bills in Parliament is in the public good.
And FODEP says it is a fundamental mistake to champion partisan interests in a constitution making process at the expense of the voters' concerns.

Commenting on the MMD's failure to marshal a two-thirds majority after voting on the Constitution of Zambia bill in Parliament last Tuesday, Mung'omba, who is former chairman of the 2003-2005 Constitution Review Commission (CRC), said in an interview that if the bill had passed, it could have brought acrimony in the nation.

"When public good has been served, there should be no winners or losers.

The defeat of the two Constitutional bills by Parliament on Tuesday, March 29 is in the interest of public good. If the bills had been carried we most likely would have ended up with acrimony between those who felt that the draft constitution of 2003-2005 CRC was the people's draft and those who felt that the NCC draft was the people's draft," Mung'omba said.

He said his team and himself suggested a national referendum as the best platform to adopt the constitution because they did not want Parliament to play around with the document.

Mung'omba said the government should in future constitute a team of experts to draft a constitution that would incorporate people's wishes.
"Views of Zambians on the type of Constitution they want are well documented from 1991 to the present day. The latest in line of these documents is the Report and the Draft Constitution from the NCC National Constitutional Conference. We need now to lay these documents before a committee of experts, most of them Zambian constitutional lawyers," he said.

"We have Professor Muna Ndulo in the USA, Professor Michelo Hansungule in South Africa, and Dr Beyani who is in London. All these are good constitutional lawyers who can work together with other eminent Zambian lawyers. Right now they are making constitutions for other countries."

Mung'omba said upon considering what the people wanted, the experts could draft a constitution which would then be forwarded to a national referendum for adoption.
"If approved by the National Referendum, it can later be promulgated without any debate in Parliament. Parliaments no longer make constitutions, they can only amend," Mung'omba said. "The process suggested does not need to wait for elections to take place. All stakeholders must be invited to come together to resolve this impulse.
Zambians are desperate for a constitution that captures faithfully their will and aspiration. Can we make it? Yes, we can!"

Mung'omba said the fact that the bill failed to go through in Parliament also meant that there was no consensus earlier on among Zambians. He said a people driven constitution called for patient and broader consultation among all segments of society.

"But whatever it is, constitution making is one such process which requires high levels of tolerance, dialogue and interaction, for the simple reason that no simple person or single group of even geniuses can make a Constitution for a country. Not even a popularly elected government or a big political party can make a people's constitution," he said.

Mung'omba said Vice-President George Kunda should now not make the constitution an election issue. He said dialogue, inclusiveness and a common purpose were the tools for achieving a common good.

And Foundation for Democratic Process president Dr Alex Ng'oma said politicians must learn lessons from what transpired from the failed Constitution Bill of Zambia.

"Their politicians lesson is that it is a fundamental mistake to champion partisan interests at the expense of the concerns of the voters who sent them to Parliament. There is, unfortunately, a bitter lesson that the people of Zambia must now learn from the failed Constitutional Bill," Dr Ng'oma said.

"The lesson is that it is a big mistake to leave the constitution-making process largely in the hands of politicians. If this lesson is not learnt, Zambia's constitution-making process will forever remain inconclusive."

Dr Ng'oma said it was unfortunate that the Constitution-making process gobbled huge sums of taxpayers' money, which had been thrown into a drain.

He said it was difficult to build consensus around the Constitution-making process in the current sitting of Parliament because the NCC draft constitution did not contain all the key issues that stakeholders had presented to the Mung'omba CRC.

"Notwithstanding, the NCC did, indeed, address some of the concerns of the people of Zambia. Among these were: the Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMPR) electoral system; enshrinement of election date; rights of persons with disabilities; funding of political parties," said Dr Ng'oma.