Technical committee Press Statement 24th January, 2014

Zambia draft Constitution

Press Statement

24th January, 2014

The Technical committee on Drafting the Zambian Constitution wishes to give an update on the current status of its work and respond to the challenge to explain how the document circulating in the media leaked.

1. Our Approach to the task at hand
The Technical Committee on Drafting the Zambian Constitution has conducted its duties and executed its responsibilities above board, in a non-partisan manner and in the interest of all the citizens of Zambia and for the interests of generations to come. We have insulated ourselves from being influenced by any one group, in order to allow ourselves the opportunity to craft a constitution that will genuinely respond to the aspirations of the Zambian people.

The members of the Technical Committee responded positively to the call to national duty, in the clear hope that finally, Zambians were at the cusp of giving onto themselves a people-driven Constitution. Our focus has been to listen to the expectations of the Zambian people and in so doing to ensure that those expectations are reflected fairly and equitably in the final document.

2. Hand-over of Draft Constitution and other accompanying documents
The debate on whether or not the Technical Committee has handed over the ten copies of each of the Draft Constitution, the Report of the Technical Committee, and the Constitution of Zambia Bill to the Government of the Republic of Zambia, has been raging on for some time now. In response, we wish to state the following:

i. As far back as November 2013, the Technical Committee made a public statement and announced that it had completed its work and was merely awaiting Government approval for it to print copies for broad circulation. The position as it stands today is that the Committee has concluded its work and there is no further work to be done on the documents – there is no fine tuning required;

ii. On 23 December, 2013, we expressed our desire as a Committee to urgently hand-over the documents to the Republican President, following our failed attempts to persuade Government to allow for simultaneous hand over of the documents to the President and the members of the public. From that date onwards, the Technical Committee has made several overtures to Government for it to hand-over the documents but it has been all in vain. The Executive has found one or two reasons why the Technical Committee cannot hand-over the documents. It is, therefore, unfortunate that an impression has been created that the Technical Committee has refused to hand-over the documents to Government. We, as government appointees, cannot refuse to hand-over the documents to the appointing authority.

iii. It must, further, be remembered that the Terms of Reference given to the Technical Committee mandated the Committee to hand the documents to the Referendum Commission and not directly to Government. However, given the fact that the Referendum Commission is not in place, the Technical Committee proposed in its Programme of Work to hand the documents simultaneously to His Excellency the President and to the general public. This position was communicated to Government and there was no objection to that proposal. And it is for this reason that the First Draft Constitution was handed-over simultaneously to the President and the general public.

iv. We as the Technical Committee are, therefore, prepared at any time to hand-over the documents to the Government.
3. Leakage of the Draft Constitution
With regard to documents that have been in the public domain, the Technical Committee has taken long to respond to the various allegations about the same matter because the Committee has been getting conflicting signals from the Government. The Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, who is the Government Spokesperson, confirmed that Government was studying the document, and will inform the nation on its position concerning the contents of the document. Meanwhile, the Honourable Minister of Labour has told the nation that Government was still waiting for the documents from the Technical Committee. The question is: where have the documents which are being studied come from?
On the other hand, a public officer has cautioned people “not to be misled as regards the authenticity of any such document”. His Honour the Vice President has, never-the-less, ordered the Technical Committee to be investigated for having leaked a possibly fake document. How is the Technical Committee expected to comment on these matters? The Committee can only say that it is innocent of all the allegations being leveled against it.
The Technical Committee welcomes the announcement by the state, through the statement by His Honour the Vice President in Eastern Province, to investigate the source of the leaked document. The investigations, we submit, should not be limited to the Technical Committee but be extended to the government as well since these documents have also been in government’s possession. Indeed the soft copy of both the Draft Constitution and the Report of the Technical Committee are kept at the Ministry of Justice for security reasons.
We implore His Honour the Vice President not to insinuate that it is the Technical Committee which has leaked the document as that is prejudicial to an independent investigation. His Honour the Vice President cannot be the judge, jury and executioner at the same time – that is extremely unjust.

Ernest C. Mwansa