Jun 2, 2012

Are people engaged?

I have a bad feeling about the latest round of constitutional review. Beyond the initial buzz when the 1st draft was released on April 30, there isn’t a lot of conversation taking place that I can hear. Through Zambia Blog Talk Radio we engaged the committee spokesperson, Simon Kabanda, to share information about outreach, alternate formats available, submission guidelines, etc. This certainly piqued my personal interest.


Mr Kabanda was later quoted in local media bemoaning the slow trickle of submissions from the public and urging people to engage more vigorously in discussion on the document. At this time it’s difficult to say how far and wide the document has been made available, but I do know that the promised local language translations are not available and this is definitely a disadvantage for people who do not read English. We need people to be talking about this and fired up about what provisions they feel are the most important to them and for the country at large.

What worries me further about the whole process is the lack of a legal framework. The committee working on this review and drafting process, just like its predecessors, was appointed by the President, and they report directly to him. What happens then if he does not like certain provisions, what power would the committee have to put the wishes of the people above his? There isn’t a clear road map or even a budget allocated to this initiative, which to me spells further doom. Things as basic as how to conduct a referendum aren't even clearly stated. Are Zambians ready for another ill conceived process that will gobble up billions for a document that will go nowhere?

I have always wondered why we don’t put our efforts towards constitutional amendments targeting specific parts of the law that need revamping. This would cost less and would not continually stall bringing our laws up to speed with today’s current reality. Has this option been put on the table or are we so wed to the idea that entire constitution needs to be rewritten?

Anyway, I’ll do my part and submit my comments based on what I’ve read and understood. I will also add my voice to call for a clearer roadmap of the process in an attempt to course correct before it’s too late.

3 comments:

I have to say I was thoroughly impressed when I inititally saw tweets annd facebook updates from my cousins in Zambia (mostly first year uni students) talking about the draft constitution. Coming from a legal background a genuine discussion about legislation (even if it is constitutional law reform) is stil something warranting my attention.

How that first buzz of excitement went from a loud noticeable everyday twitter chatter to the quiet hum of once in a while RT's is simply due to one thing. Apathy. Zambian's apathy for legislation and politics is a staple in home as is nshima.

The attitude is "Those who know best will change it and besides our opinions don't matter".

Yet these are the same people who feel an entire English Premier league season can not pass without their commentary on the coaching/management of their beloved team or a big brother episode will not end without a critical review of the contestants & their game plans.

Lastly I would like to list my particular fustration in finding out what the Legal resource Fund of Zambia is doing in terms of putting out information (if anything) in relation to the constitutional review. It seems quiet on their front when that particular organisation should be particularly interested in this.

Mukuka, I believe you're on point. Apathy is a killer & usually ranks at the top of the list for why people get disengaged. I could attribute this to the absence of examples of how active citizenship works to our benefit as Zambians.

We need to start engagement starting from a young age in schools, churches, community groups so we learn and appreciate the value of a representative government whose work should reflect the values & interests of the people. Without this understanding, we'll continue to kick back these issues to "those who know better," and continually screw ourselves & future generations out of meaningful change.

Sadly, I also haven't heard much from the Legal Resource Fund either, so I really can't attest to the fact that they're out there pounding the pavement getting people reading this document & submitting comments. I know the NGOCC is mobilizing people, so there a slight ray of light.

Have you submitted your comments?

Already submitted my comments hun!

I'm now trying to get those around me to do the same but again it's harder than you would think.

I completely agree with you, re: engaging young Zambians in the discusssion about governance otherwise the only understanding they will have is what they are told by political parties. By then it's too late :-/.

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