By Paul Shalala
The Technical Committee on Drafting the Republican Constitution can produce the final draft constitution by 30 June, 2013 as per their own set deadline. This is very possible because they have all the human resource, the brains, financial resources, time and most of all, they have the necessary resolutions from various stakeholders to guide them in the drafting process.
There is no excuse which can be used to justify their request to extend the process by another six months to December 2013.
In the past two years, I have closely followed and reported on every step of this current constitution making process. As a journalist specially trained in Germany to report on politics and governance issues, I have taken the constitution making personal project. So far, I know everything about this business of constitution making process and not even members of the Technical Committee can lie to me that they need six more months to draft the articles of the constitution because the most difficult parts of this process have already passed.
I have travelled this country doing stories on the constitution and making sure that every voice of a well-meaning Zambian is heard in this process which is likely to change the course of the nation.
Why six months extension is unjustified
At the moment, the Technical Committee has resolutions from District Consultative Fora, Provincial Conventions, the Sector Groups Convention, the National Convention and from international constitutional experts.
All these resolutions are the basis on which the committee is supposed to base its contents for the final draft constitution.
Of all the consultative fora, the most recent was the National Convention which was held in late April this year and its resolutions are being held in soft copy by the Technical Committee.
Between April and 30th June is a two months period in which the Technical Committee is supposed to prepare the draft constitution. Considering that the resolutions are in soft copy, it is easy for the committee to edit them and prepare a document based on how stakeholders chose and voted on articles to have in their supreme law of the land.
This is not a job which can take two months, it can only take a period of a few weeks because the articles were already voted for by the people of Zambia through the various consultative fora. The committee’s job therefore at this stage is just to consolidate views from the people as contained in the rapporteur’s reports and consolidated resolutions.
With this background, I still argue that the two weeks remaining before the Technical Committee’s self imposed deadline of handing over document to President Michael Sata by June 30, 2013 is possible. There is ample time to finalise this document and the Zambian people are highly expectant of this long overdue document.
How far is the drafting process?
Last month, the Technical Committee split itself in working groups according to the different parts of the constitution in order to deliberate on specific articles and bring back resolutions to the plenary for formal adoption of articles. This process was supposed to take a few weeks before the document was to be handed over to the drafters in late May for preparation of the final draft constitution.
I personally covered a session of the plenary where members of the Technical Committee was adopting articles and the process seemed smooth.
With the passing of time, the public was informed that the committee had asked for a six months extension to complete the process. The question that begs an answer is what is delaying the process when all the documents are already available?
Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba on 11 June, 2013 told journalists at a press briefing that the current constitution making process had gobbled Kr100 million. This is an amount of money which was spent on getting views from the Zambian people. Through its request for a six months extension, the Technical
Committee hoped to use another Kr44 million through a supplementary budget. To be realistic, this is too much money to fund a simple activity that can be done within the shortest period of time. Mr Kabimba is justified to have described this request as “unreasonable and outrageous” because most stakeholders want this process to come to an end so that the way forward in this current constitution making process can be known.
As a matter of urgency, the Technical Committee must double its efforts and produce the final draft constitution by 30 June. Now that government has rejected their request for an extension, the committee has no option but to produce the document whose contents are already there.