A collective misery is being experienced across all sectors of society in Zambia. The high cost of living and the denial of basic rights and freedoms have combined to create a deep sense of despondency and concern about Zambia’s future. With a government that is directionless yet steadfastly determined to hold onto power at any cost, intolerance is increasingly being exhibited by those violently championing the cause of the ruling party in the face of a powerless law enforcement machinery that has consistently turned a blind eye to the violation of people’s rights.
A well-written, people-driven constitution would prevent such abuses from continuing. It is for this very reason that the PF seem determined not to enact a new one. They pretend to the nation and to the world that they want to prioritise development when the real reason for their resistance is that they want to hold onto power solely to benefit themselves and their supporters. They care little for who might be injured in the process.
While it may seem as though the situation is hopeless, all is not lost. There is a way – acting collectively – that we can reverse the undemocratic trend that has gripped our nation. Through perfectly legal means, the people of Zambia can legitimately remove the obstacles standing in the way of a people-driven constitution and restore our journey towards tolerance, inclusiveness and a better life for all.
Without a new “people-driven” constitution, the exercise of political power – particularly under the PF – will continue to be deliberately concentrated in the hands of the few. Corruption and political violence will not be stamped out but will instead become more prevalent. Poverty and unrelenting hardships will continue to define the lives of the poor. The high cost of doing business will consistently hamper the growth of local entrepreneurs and drive away vital investment flows. Job creation will remain an empty promise.
Overcoming these unfortunate realities will require a new constitution. The procedure by which this can be achieved, even in the face of determined resistance from the PF, is set out in this blueprint entitled: “The Restoration of Zambian Democracy”.
The Basic Proposal
If the Plan works, it will unite opposition parties and other stakeholders to coordinate a mass movement of voters that will elect a neutral (i.e. non partisan) presidential candidate for a limited period of no more than 9 months. The primary responsibility of this person will be to usher in a new constitution and oversee the creation of a level political playing field under which fresh and more inclusive elections can be held as soon as all the necessary measures are put in place.
In the absence of unity, a divided opposition could see the continuation of the system of abusive control and intimidation that has characterised the short period of governance by the PF.
The uniting of opposition parties and other stakeholders is not aimed solely at ejecting the PF from power but is intended to ensure that a new constitution will be enacted as quickly as possible and that fundamental rights will be protected in the run up to free and fair elections (which the PF would be expected to participate in if they so wished).
The Steps Required
The steps set out below are not intended to substitute but to complement ongoing efforts being undertaken by the Grand Coalition of civil society and political parties that was formed to secure the enactment of a people-driven constitution before the 2016 general elections. However, given the means at the PF’s disposal to delay the enactment of a new constitution, this proposed approach essentially guarantees a final date by which a new constitution would be in place and will prevent the PF from continuing to abuse powers and terrorise citizens.
Step 1: Understand and agree the Plan
The Plan is based on the expectation that the PF will resist every attempt to force them to enact a new constitution prior to the 2016 general elections.
The objective of the Plan is to unite the nation towards electing a politically neutral interim president of Zambia for a limited period of no more than 9 months, who will serve with an equally neutral and competent cabinet to execute the following 5 point mandate:
1. Appoint a caretaker administration (including a vice president and ministers pre-approved by stakeholders) to manage the economy and ensure normal operations of government during the interim mandate period.
2. Finalise the constitution-making process and prepare for a national referendum and fresh elections within 9 months.
3. Amend all laws that have been used to undermine democratic freedoms to prevent them from being applied against political opposition and civil society (i.e. the Public Order Act, the NGO Act, the Penal Code and similar laws).
4. Appoint professional and politically neutral persons of stature to lead state institutions and law enforcement agencies that will protect democratic freedoms (i.e. Anti-Corruption Commission, Drug Enforcement Commission, Police Service and similar organisations).
5. Ensure continuous voter registration and make all necessary arrangements to conduct fresh general elections at the end of the interim mandate period under a new voters roll.
The interim president ushering in these changes should ideally be: (i) someone that is senior citizen with national stature and appeal; (ii) of independent financial means; (iii) non-partisan; and (iv) obligated and committed to steping down and declining to stand in the subsequent elections that would be conducted under the new constitution. These terms and conditions would form part of a broad “Framework Agreement” between all participating stakeholders and would be published widely for purposes of national accountability.
The role of parliamentarians (who would be elected during the interim period to serve an interim mandate) will be to pass the necessary laws to support the Plan in accordance with the Framework Agreement and to enact an overall law that will ensure there are no delays or deviations to the Plan.
Step 2: Obtain written consensus on the Plan
All (or the majority of) stakeholders will need to agree the Plan in writing.
Stakeholders will include members of political parties as well as any sympathisers within the PF that have seen the error of their own leadership in denying the Zambian people a new constitution.
The devil will be in the detail so it is important that the mechanics of how the whole process will unfold be set out as fully as possible in the Framework Agreement (including naming the positions to be affected and identifying the candidates to be appointed).
Step 3: Implement the Plan
This will be the hard part and, again, will require the collective efforts of a majority of parliamentarians that will include members of the ruling party that are prepared to put country before narrow partisan or personal interests.
It is likely that the PF administration will do everything it can to intimidate stakeholders. Sound legal protection measures will therefore need to be in place in anticipation of any attempt by authorities to criminalise the Plan and it’s promoters.
Working committees (similar to those aligned to the Grand Coalition on the Enactment of a new Constitution) would be tasked with drawing up and agreeing the Framework Agreement and setting out a roadmap for implementation.
The costs associated with the Plan and how the funds would be raised and applied would need to be factored into the implementation roadmap.
If the country is for any reason required to hold an unscheduled presidential election, it may then even be possible to enact a new constitution before scheduled elections in 2016.
Let us not celebrate our forthcoming Jubilee in continued misery. Let us celebrate it in hope and with the same determination we were able to muster in uniting ourselves to defy and defeat
– colonialism in the run up to 1964
– one-party authoritarianism in 1991
– the attempt at a third term of governance in 2001
– and now the anarchy and tyranny of the PF years.
The plan to elect a politically neutral leadership for a limited period of time that will usher in a constitution that will stand the test of time can be the defining political contribution of our generation. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to take every legitimate action to prevent continued violence, intimidation and financial misery from becoming a permanent feature of our social, political and economic landscape.
We ask all politicians and all political and non-political stakeholders to set aside partisan and personal interests. We ask them to support this Plan and negotiate and sign a comprehensive Framework Agreement that will usher in long overdue constitutional change in Zambia in order to liberate our people from poverty and the tyranny of excessive state power.
In the grand design of our nation’s history, implementing this Plan will be a major milestone for posterity and will demonstrate a unity of purpose that will define our future democratic credentials for the centuries that will follow our much cherished Jubilee. Let us not squander the opportunity to unite the nation around a cause that is greater than the aspirations of any one person or any one party.
If we remain united in this cause, all the armies in the world will not be able to stop an idea whose time has come.
National Restoration Party
11 May 2014