Transparency International Zambia (TI-Z) and Chapter One Foundation (COF) have issued a joint statement demanding an open, inclusive, and transparent constitutional review process in Zambia.
The statement issued by TI-Z Executive Director, Mr. Maurice K. Nyambe in conjunction with COF Executive Director , Ms. Linda Kasonde, addresses concerns about past constitutional reviews being driven by political interests rather than the will of the people.
Since Zambia gained independence in 1964, the country has undergone multiple constitutional review processes, often marked by competing interests between ruling parties seeking more power and citizens seeking constitutional reforms.
Previous attempts at constitutional reform resulted in piecemeal amendments to the Constitution, with Parliament, dominated by ruling party majorities, determining the final content of such amendments.
The statement highlights that approximately 70% of the recommendations made by the Zambian people in the 1996 Mwanakatwe Commission’s report were rejected by the government during the parliamentary review.
In 2019, civil society and the United Party for National Development (UPND) rejected constitutional amendments proposed by the previous government, which were perceived as efforts to consolidate power.
The UPND government, which took office in August 2021, pledged to enhance governance institutions and review the constitution in line with the people’s will.
However, TI-Z and COF express concern about the lack of progress in facilitating a clear roadmap for the constitutional review process, as well as inadequate communication from the government on this issue.
The statement emphasizes that democracy should promote good governance by and for the people, and it raises concerns about substantial constitutional amendments without meaningful stakeholder engagement.
Without a framework protecting the process and the content of the constitution from manipulation, parliamentary debate risks altering the nature of the people’s wishes for the final constitution.
TI-Z and COF call on the government, particularly the Ministry of Justice, to provide clear direction on how the government plans to engage the Zambian people in the constitutional review process without further delay.
They urge the UPND administration to avoid narrow political interests and prioritize the wider public good in the constitutional review process.