“The disappointing factor is that not many people are coming in to follow the proceedings...Members of the public are supposed to come and contribute through the delegates. They are supposed to ask them questions and ensure that what they desire to see in the constitution is upheld. After all it’s their constitution....If you can have people in urban areas not being interested in following the proceedings of the debates even when it is open to the public, imagine those in rural areas who cannot get to Lusaka. How do they push their views.....?”
National Constitutional Conference (NCC) vice-chairperson Faustina Sinyangwe Faustina bemoaning the lack of public interest in the ongoing National Constitutional Conference (NCC) sittings. The ignorance of some politicians is truly baffling. Of course the people regard this as a lower priority compared to other things. They have no luxury to sit down for a whole day and "debate" issues. Ms Sinyangwe forgets that while she sits there being paid $350 a day just for talking and reading, 70% of our people are living on a hard earned $1 a day. Incidentally, if she's so concerned about people participation in general, she would have had the sense by now to atleast create a website so that the public have accessible information and can contribute through other means. Crucially, Zambians in the diaspora would also have an opportunity to engage in the discussions.
But on a serious point, I think the lack of people participation raises profound questions on whether this constitution will provide the necessary political institutions that will alter the balance of power from few rich urbanite folks who have held Zambia in a grip since independence towards the poor and the voiceless. The truth is that Zambia moved from a One Party State towards a multi-party system that has effectively remained a defacto One Party state. Yes, Zambia's political system on paper is a "multi-party" but the distribution of power within our nation remains very much a one party state. To make matters worse, we are still recycling the same leaders from the past that have often failed us. We have an elite of Zambians that continue to shape our destiny for better or for worse.
Unless this constitution changes the distribution of power and alters the incentives for better leaders to emerge in the future, the nation will remain within its current political equilibrium that has perpetuated continuous under-development. What we need is something from the current process that will alter the balance of power and give the poor a greater say in the development of the nation - not just platitudes, but a real and fundamental shift in dynamics. That is our best hope for incentivising future governments to deliver policies that are more pro-poor and pro-growth in the long term. In that world, they would be no more Ms Sinyangwe wasting poor peoples money on $350 a day sitting without a full consultation... But its still just hope....the richer and more affluent Zambians will make the new constitution....and the same rich and educated Zambians will find ways of making sure that any concessions they make in the new constitution will involve a re-balancing of power in their favour elsewhere. As I said, we are stuck in a political equilibrium...