The Constitution Debate

When President Mwanawasa was elected in 2001 he pledged to facilitate the making of a new Zambian Constitution. In 2003 he appointed a Commission under the Inquiries Act with instructions to review the Constitution. The Law Association of Zambia (LAZ); the most learned men and women in our country in the subject matter argued that the Inquiries Act was not the best mechanism to use in writing a new constitution. Consequently, LAZ together with the three mother church bodies and a number of leading civil society organizations objected to taking part in the Commission and even boycotted the proceedings of the Commission.

Nevertheless, President Mwanawasa pleaded with us to trust him in a way we had not trusted his predecessors (Kaunda or Chiluba).  Mwanawasa, who condemned the present Zambian Constitution as divisive and a hindrance to the development of sustained democracy, assured us that he would respect whatever the Zambian people submitted to the Commission. The combination of Mwanawasa’s appeal and the integral way the Commissioners conducted their mandate resulted in LAZ, the church, and civil society organizations entering their submissions despite initial skepticism.  In 2005 the Commissioners completed their work and handed the Report and the Draft Constitution to President Mwanawasa.  Upon publication, a sigh of relief could be heard throughout Zambia because the Commissioners had captured the values, the virtues, and the rule of law by which we wanted to govern ourselves.

Come November 2010; the government has stated that we will not have a national referendum by 2011, and therefore we will not have a new constitution by the 2011 elections.  Consequently, we will be left with the same constitution our late President damned as “divisive and a hindrance to the development of a sustained democracy.”  Who will fulfill the pledge of our late President to listen to the voice of the people as submitted to the Commission?  While the uncertainty can be disheartening, let us remember as Christians that regardless of our personal interest in the constitution making process, there is not a constitution in this world which could rightly be called “Christlike” for the simple reason that worldly laws trust in the sword to retain law and order.

Therefore, as Christian leaders participate in the political process let us not be swayed by loaded rhetoric (Christian Nation Clause, etc…) to advance partisan policies that are unjust.  We must engage the whole process so the rule of law, good governance, justice, and integrity are upheld.  We must engage with integrity and out of love for country, which means we can no longer use Christian expressions as a means to gain political advantage.  When we associate the Lord Jesus Christ to a particular political party or political cause, even implicitly, we legitimize the widespread national perception that Christianity itself can be judged by the actions of politicians past or present. This can harm our Christian witness because the splendor of the cross gets distorted by the unemployment, poverty, corruption, tribalism, greed, and exploitation so pervasive in our politics.

Lawrence Temfwe