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February 2, 2012
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Technical Committee Confers with ZCTU Officials
The Technical Committee on Drafting the Zambian Constitution held a consultative meeting with the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) on 31st January 2012.
The meeting saw the two parties reach consensus on issues affecting the current constitution-making process. These issues included the legality of the appointment of the Technical Committee, political will to see the process through, participation of stakeholders, the budget and the referendum.
The ZCTU was concerned that there was no legal framework guiding the establishment and operations of the Technical Committee. The union mother body was particularly concerned that Government was spending money on a process that had no legal backing.
It was clarified that the Technical Committee had been appointed in exercise of the executive powers, vested in the President under Articles 33 and 44 of the current Constitution.
It was further stated that there was no need to prepare a Bill for enactment by Parliament to establish a legal framework for the appointment of the Technical Committee. This was against the background that Government was mandated to initiate legislation and that, in this case, Government was initiating the Constitution of Zambia Bill. This being the case, there was no need to take a Bill to Parliament in order to legalise the initiation of another Bill.
The ZCTU was concerned about the safety, from political manipulation, of the product of the Technical Committee in view of the experiences from previous constitution review processes.
It was clarified that there would be no Cabinet White Paper on the draft Constitution that will be produced by the Technical Committee. This means that the final draft Constitution will not be reviewed by Cabinet as was the practice in the past. With the previous processes, Cabinet has had to receive a draft constitution as a recommendation, which gave members of Cabinet the liberty to accept or reject as many articles as they wished. This is what led to about 70% of the articles of the Mwanakatwe Constitution Review Commission being thrown out by the previous administration.
The current government has given the final authority, over the Constitution, to the people by providing for a Referendum. Although the draft Constitution will be given to the President, this does not mean that it will be a recommendation for Cabinet to alter it before taking it to Parliament. The final draft Constitution that will be produced by the Technical Committee is the document that will go to the National Referendum in its entirety.
The National Referendum
The ZCTU raised concern that the conditions for a referendum were difficult to satisfy. The requirement for a successful referendum is that 50% of all people eligible to vote must participate. Looking at the levels of apathy in the country, as exhibited during elections, the union mother body was sceptical that there could be 50% of people eligible to vote (not 50% of registered voters) turning up to vote in a Referendum. This is compounded by the fact that, unlike an election period when candidates go around persuading people to vote, there will be no candidates in the Referendum to go out and campaign.
It was recognised that apathy during the Referendum had the potential to derail the enactment of the new constitution. All stakeholders, including ZCTU and the church, which have members countrywide, must be involved to ensure that the Referendum succeeds. Meeting such a benchmark (50% of all people eligible to vote) is a very big challenge. It is incumbent upon all stakeholders to mobilise the people to vote in the Referendum. All stakeholders must start looking at how they can contribute towards conducting a successful Referendum.
Budget for the process
The ZCTU raised concern about the budget of the constitution-making process. The union mother body stated that members were interested in knowing how much would be spent on the process and how much allowances members of the Technical Committee were getting per sitting.
It was clarified that the budget for the constitution-making process had not been finalised and that professional fees for external consultants have not been agreed upon. Allowances for Technical Committee members were also still under discussion. The current allowance rate falls far below what most members of the Technical Committee would earn in their private businesses. The current allowances range from Kwacha six hundred and fifty thousand (K650, 000) for ordinary members to Kwacha seven hundred and fifty thousand (K750, 000) for the Chairperson per sitting. Some members run law firms where they earn much more money that cannot be compared to what they are being paid as Technical Committee members. For example, a lawyer of the rank of State Counsel earns a minimum of Kwacha five hundred thousand (K500, 000) per hour and there are several lawyers of this rank who are serving on the Technical Committee. Serving on the Technical Committee should be seen as a national duty and a sacrifice for most members.
Participation of Stakeholders
The ZCTU had concerns on the non-representation of some stakeholders on the Technical Committee.
The Technical Committee clarified that all stakeholders would have an opportunity to study the first draft Constitution to ensure that it accurately reflected what the people submitted during the previous Constitution Review processes. Those who were not represented on the Technical Committee had not been left out of the process. They would be able to participate through Provincial, Sector Groups and National Constitution Conventions. Guidelines would soon be prepared on how the conventions will be organised. The composition of participants for the conventions will be addressed through the guidelines. These guidelines will be widely publicised for every stakeholder’s attention.
Interaction with stakeholders
The ZCTU was invited to call on the Technical Committee whenever it had issues that required clarification. It was acknowledged that dialogue was the best way to resolve pertinent issues rather than raising concerns through the press.
The Technical Committee is ready to meet any stakeholder who wishes to seek clarification on any issue concerning its work. The Technical Committee is not a secret organisation. It has an open door for dialogue with all interested stakeholders.
Several members of the ZCTU and its affiliate unions, led by ZCTU President Leonard Hikaumba, attended the meeting. The Minister of Justice Hon. Sebastian Zulu was also in attendance.
TECHNICAL COMMITTEE ON DRAFTING THE ZAMBIAN CONSTITUTION
Last Updated (Saturday, 17 March 2012 04:21)