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Saturday, 12 April 2014

Constitution limbo

I would like to state here that if we are going to have a referendum as it seems to be the case, the legal process leading us to that cannot be completed before the year 2016. A referendum under our present law requires that we should first conduct a national consensus of all those citizens who are eligible to vote (above 18 years old)

The justice minister is merely stating the obvious. Everyone knows that the draft constitution cannot be delivered before 2016. This is consistent with what I have said previously. It seems to me that the referendum won't be held in this parliament. I am glad he is finally being clear on this point. And people still need a clear road map not merely media statements.

It seems to me the most sound way forward  would be to hold the referendum as part of the 2016 election. This saves everyone money (it would cost around $100m to do the whole thing on its own - the purported K15m is just for the census and a very low estimate).

So where does this leave us? 

I think people have two choices :

a) Push for a referendum in early 2016, with the actual constitution being implemented after 2016.

b) Identify things in the current draft constitution that can be changed piece by piece - and then go for a referendum on big things during the 2016 vote.

I think PF has been gravitating to a version of (b). But given the PF majority in parliament and their shambles in many areas most Zambians are very wary of what that would mean. Plus many Zambians are ignorant on what (b) looks like. Constitutional experts have suggested that not everything in the draft constitution needs a referendum legally. People need to know which bits these are!

And of course all of this is academic because the draft constitution has still NOT been released for public discussion. We don't even have a document yet! May be the justice minister should focus on achieving the simpler task of publishing the document before worrying about the census! He is putting the cart before the horse, as the english phrase goes!

Chola Mukanga | Economist
Copyright © Zambian Economist 2014

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