Zambia reassures foreign envoys over constitution-drafting

LUSAKA – Zambian President Michael Sata has reassured foreign ambassadors and international organizations, during a closed-door meeting on Thursday, that his government has not abandoned the constitution making process.

"During this meeting, President Sata assured the nation and various stakeholders, including diplomats, that the Government is still committed to the process of Constitution review," his Special Assistance for Press and Public Relations George Chellah said in a press release.

The president said the government would study the report submitted by the Technical Committee and take its recommendations into consideration.

"We have to factor also the logistical and financial repercussions in order not to derail other pressing developmental projects," the statement quoted the president as telling the diplomats.

In the run-up to the 2011 elections, Sata promised that his government would deliver "a people-driven constitution within 90 days upon assuming the office."

After assuming power, Sata appointed a constitutional committee to look into submissions by citizens before coming up with a draft constitution.

The process has gone on for over three years now and the team has come up with a draft document, which is supposed to be delivered to President Sata and the general public before it becomes a new constitution via parliament or referendum.

However, the justice minister ordered the committee to only print ten copies of the document for selected members of the ruling party.

-Rigged Polls-

President Santa defended a decision by his ruling the Patriotic Front [PF] to petitioned all the parliamentary seats held by opposition parties.

"It cannot be disputed that there was a massive distribution of inducements and other malpractices during the 2011 elections," he told the diplomats.

"Although, the Patriotic Front [PF] won the elections, we felt that had it not been for the malpractices, the PF would have secured more seats and won the presidential election by a wider margin," he added.

The president insisted that individuals who had lost parliamentary candidates had decided to exercise their constitutional right and the courts have made their independent decisions to nullify the elections.

"And consequently by-elections have to be held. This is what the laws of the land prescribe and as a responsible Government we have to follow the law," added the president.

The PF had won 60 parliamentary seats in 2001.

The opposition Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) won 55 seats and the United Party for National Development (UPND) won 28. Three seats, meanwhile, went to independent candidates.

Three months after the elections, the PF petitioned all the parliamentary seats held by opposition parties in hopes that it would win all of them and increase its representation in parliament.

The nullification, which started in 2012, have so far seen ten parliamentary seats held by the opposition being nullified by the Supreme Court for Zambia.

Most seats that were nullified were later recaptured by the opposition, but the ruling PF asked the Supreme Court to render the re-election of the candidates in question null and void.

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