Zambian bishops want new constitution to stress human development

13 Jun 2013

By The Record

Police at the international airport in Lusaka, Zambia, Oct. 12 2012 check a shipment of ballot papers used in the presidential by-election. PHOTO: CNS/ Mackson Wasamunu, Reuters

By Mwansa Pintu

The Zambian bishops’ conference added its voice to a growing civil movement in calling for a new constitution to promote development as a step toward improved social services and bettering the lives of the country’s impoverished residents.

“A good constitution would see medicine in hospitals and food on people’s tables,” Father Cleophas Lungu, secretary general of the Zambian Episcopal Conference, said June 11 during a meeting of nongovernment organizations reviewing progress toward a new constitution.

He welcomed the group’s agreement to develop an outline of minimum standards for the constitution to be given to members of the technical committee reworking a draft of the document. The group also discussed a plan of action if the constitution was not finished on time.

“We need to remain vigilant and alert,” Father Lungu said. “Past experience has shown that we cannot entrust the whole process in the hands of the politician. Remember all it takes for bad things to happen is for good people to remain silent.

“I would like to believe that those of us who are gathered here are good people who mean well for this country,” the priest added. “Because of our deep-rooted love and passion for our people, we refuse to stay idle and simply watch and pray that we have a constitution one day. We have therefore gathered today, in order to exchange some ideas and share some pertinent strategies of ensuring that a popular constitution is enacted in Zambia.”

Zambia has revised its constitution four times since gaining independence from Britain in 1964 as successive governments have molded the document to silence opposition parties and entrench their stay in power. The current review would lead to the country’s fifth constitution in Zambia’s half-century of independence. – CNS