Guy Scott and Gavin Lubinda have written a fascinating piece in the Post newspaper (requires subscription) on the unbalanced composition of the National Constitution Conference (NCC). The NCC will define Zambia's future for some years to come. The article emphasises the over representation of politicians (63%) and the under representation of civil society:
But there's another group that is not mentioned in the article and is not represented on the NCC. These are Zambian citizens working and studying abroad who are doing their very best to support the nation through remittances and regular visits. Not only that, Zambians abroad through education and wider experience have a lot to contribute towards the NCC debates (see the blog 'benefits of foreign education').
The stated aim of the NCC Bill is to provide a forum with fair representation across Zambian society – representation that goes beyond Parliament (even though this body has the power to actually enact a new Constitution). Theoretically, the jealously held powers of politicians should be balanced with the influence of civil society – representatives of the people who regard themselves as charged with keeping an eye on politicians and their tricks.
How well has the job been done? In terms of politicians versus non-politicians, the NCC is preponderantly made up of the former. The political composition is as follows:
Members of Parliament: 158
Political party officials: 48
District/City Councillors: 73
House of Chiefs members: 18
This gives a total of 297 out of the total expected membership of the NCC of 472 – 63 per cent to the politicians. The imbalance is of course deliberate, as a little comparison will show. Each party with at least one MP in Parliament has its MP(s) accredited to the NCC plus it is allowed to send six officials. Thus the United Liberal Party (ULP) for example, which has three MPs, gets to send nine representatives to the NCC. What about the churches in comparison? Well, each of the three Church mother bodies gets to send three reps. So the entire Christian establishment has nine votes on the NCC – equal to the votes commanded by the ULP!
The Government has responsibility to ensure Zambians abroad were brought into the fold to take part in such crucial issues. Equal responsibility also lie with Zambians abroad who should not wait for Government and other people to 'remember' them! Zambians abroad must seize the initiative to define their destiny - unless they gave up being Zambian long time ago! It is for this reason that I fully support what ZASN is trying to do in creating a framework where Zambians abroad can leverage their skills and expertise back home. Our hope surely must be that may be one day an organisation like ZASN can push for such representation in other areas of decision making e.g. voting (which I currently oppose but may be future technology will overcome my worries).