Lies, damned lies and the demise of Zambia's draft constitution

By Richard Lee | December 03rd, 2013

The writing has been on the wall for a long time. But now it’s official. Zambia’s latest constitution drafting process is going to fail – and the blame can be laid squarely at the feet of President Michael Sata and his ruling Patriotic Front.

After a lengthy process of consultation and drafting – and many missed deadlines – the technical committee finalised the draft document in November. But was then ordered to make only 10 copies and hand them all to the presidency rather than making it public. Remarkably – considering it was appointed by Sata – the committee refused to bow to this demand for secrecy, leading to a stalemate.

A stalemate that Sata has now broken by publicly stating that Zambia does not need a new constitution – only tweaks to the current document (it doesn’t!). In the process, he undid years of work – and the promise of a more modern, progressive constitution, which Zambia sorely needs and which the people clearly want.

His remarks also represent the biggest U-turn of an administration that has made an embarrassing habit of them.

It also underlines how ready, willing and able the PF and its leaders are to lie to the people. They lied on the campaign trail when they said they would enact a new constitution within 90 days of coming to office. They lied over-and-over again when they said that they were committed to a new constitution since Sata’s statement makes it clear that tinkering with the old one was all they ever really intended to do.

And they have now lied again to try and counter the furious backlash that has erupted since Sata’s comments. In a frankly ludicrous statement, the chief government spin-doctor claims that nothing has changed and that people should not “interpret the President’s statement in Mansa as a change of position and lack of commitment to the constitution making process.”

But his remarks were very clear – Zambia does not need a new constitution, just amendments to the current one. How can this not be interpreted as a change of position and a total lack of commitment to the constitution drafting process?

And how can these remarks be squared with another great line in the statement that ‘Sata’s commitment to deliver a people driven constitution remains unshakeable and that position has not changed and it will not change’?

The reality is that this should be the nail in the coffin of the PF’s hopes of re-election. There is no way that they can possibly be trusted after this – after lying to so many people for so long. How can anyone possibly believe anything they say again? How could anyone vote for them when it is crystal clear that they do not believe in any policies, principles or programmes?

They believe in power and power alone. And we all know what power does…

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