JUSTICE Minister Wynter Kabimba has said Government will not be a bystander in the Constitution-making process.
Mr Kabimba said during a meeting with the Oasis Forum that it was wrong for stakeholders to demand that the Government should have no input in the Constitution-making process when the State represented the public from whom the Constitution draws its legitimacy and authority.
“To suggest that we should be excluded smacks a lot of suspicion. We hear insinuations that we should fold our arms and be bystanders. We also hear insinuations that we are delaying the process to perpetuate our stay in office, which is wrong,” he said.
The Justice Minister, who is also Patriotic Front (PF) secretary general, assured the Oasis Forum that the Government was aware that dialogue over the Constitution-making process would stop the mistrust among stakeholders.
Mr Kabimba reiterated that the Constitution was one of the many priorities of the Government and the process had not stalled but that it was waiting to be tabled before Cabinet which would ensure that the technical committee worked within its terms of reference.
The minister said the Constitution had not been delivered within the promised 90 days because the PF manifesto held that the technical committee comes up with a document from views collected from previous commissions but that the experts decided to get fresh submissions from people.
“Without apportioning any blame, if we had proceeded with what we have in the PF manifesto, it was possible to have a new Constitution within 90 days but the technical committee in their infinite wisdom decided to change the terms of reference,” he said.
Mr Kabimba was flanked by his deputy Keith Mukata, Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Gabriel Namulambe, Solicitor-General Abraham Mwansa and the two permanent secretaries in the Justice Ministry Patricia Jere and Joseph Akafumba.
He said the Government strove to execute its duties diligently without fear of losing power in 2016 and that the people of Zambia would judge whether the PF deserved another mandate.
Oasis Forum chairperson Reverend Susanne Matale said they had no intention of frustrating the Government but urged the minister to expedite the release of the Draft Constitution to mark the most memorable gift to the citizenry in the jubilee year.
Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) executive director Reverend Pukuta Mwanza said conflicting statements from the Government on the Constitution were creating anxiety.
Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC) secretary general Father Cleophas Lungu said the PF Government provided a window of hope that a new Constitution would finally be enacted.
Non-Governmental Organisation Coordinating Council chairperson Beatrice Grillo urged the Government to leave behind a legacy by delivering a new Constitution.
Earlier, the Oasis Forum objected to the presence of the media at the meeting but Mr Kabimba and Mr Namulambe advised that holding such interactions in camera only fuelled speculation and distortion of facts.
Times of Zambia