By Peter Sinkamba
UPND GOVERNMENT SHOULD ABANDON SELFISH MOTIVES TO AMEND THE CONSTITUTION
The Constitution of Zambia is the supreme law of our great country, Zambia. It establishes the system of governing our country; distribute and constrain power; protect the rights of citizens; and deal with various additional issues of identity or substantive policy that are considered foundational in the specific context of our beloved country. It was developed and adopted after an elaborate consultative process.
I understand from press statements that the UPND Government plans to amend it; barely seven years after the last amendment.
A constitution is intended to be both foundational and enduring. However, a constitution is not intended to be immutable. If it can endure the test of time, that is great because that was a solemn declaration we collectively as the people of Zambia made when adopting the 2016 Amendment.
The motivation for changing the written text of a constitution must only be motivated by the following factors:
(i) to adjust the constitution to the environment within which the political system operates (including economics, technology, international relations, demographics, changes in the values of the population, etc.);
(ii) to correct provisions that have proved inadequate over time, and
(iii) to further improve constitutional rights or to strengthen democratic institutions.
Never should our constitution be motivated by selfish or partisan goals. Since a constitution sets the rules of the ‘political game’, those in power may be tempted to change the rules to extend their tenure in power, to secure their position, to marginalize the opposition or to limit civil and political rights. Such changes only weaken, or even undermine, democracy.
For the reasons above-mentioned, there is a need for all patriotic citizens to stand up and defend the Constitution. There is a need to protect the Constitution against short-term changes or changes hastily approved without due reflection and consideration.
An amendment process must only be permissible if such allows the Constitution to be changed for the public good, when necessary, when supported by a sufficient consensus, and after careful deliberation.
In this regard, it is our considered view, as the Green Party, that the UPND government must be prevented from amending the Constitution for self-interested, partisan, destructive, or short-term motives through the parliamentary process.
In our view, if UPND has identified issues that require clarification, it should, in the meantime, approach the Constitutional Court. Proceeding through the parliamentary process will only deepen division and acrimony in the country.
Focus for government at the moment should be to sort out the cost of living and dismantling the stifling debt.