By mpandashalo (PF Cadre)
Did Mr. Hichilema understand the implications of shooting down the enactment of the enhanced Bill of Rights? With the establishment of the Constitutional Court, the enhanced Bill of Rights under Clause 57 would have allowed an aggrieved party to sue the offending party to seek redress. In this case, concerned citizens would have sued government for lack of access to clean drinking water. Zambians had a chance to enhance their social, economic, cultural and environmental rights in the expanded Bill of Rights that guaranteed every citizen to be afforded, legally, conditions under which they would have been able to meet their needs.
A Bill of Rights is a set of legal guarantees that is set out within the Constitution to protect fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals. These guarantees and freedoms include the right to life, equality of both gender, economic and social rights, consumer rights, rights of children, right to education, health and freedom of association and assembly, rights of street children, freedom of conscience and belief of religion. Most of the outlined rights are silent in the 1996 Constitution. The enhanced Bill of Rights was supposed to be the basis of Zambia’s social, political, legal, economic and cultural policies and State action had it been adopted.
So for UPND cadres to say their 10 point plan would have prevented this year’s cholera is tantamount to calling Zambians fools who cannot understand the underlying cause of cholera; inequity and lack of social development for 53 years because government is not obliged to address these issues. Zambia should shift away from this culture of political promises, be it 10 points or 100 points, to one of legal obligations on social, political, legal, economic and cultural justice. But this will require intensive civic education on the importance of understanding the relevance of embarking on institutional reforms. To appreciate this need for institutional reforms, one needs to understand why things are wrong today.
Post-independence Zambia inherited deeply corrupt institutions, laws and values from our colonial British government. Instead of changing these for the better, UNIP entrenched this deeply compromised governance system to have power over everything, basically to remain in power forever. You see, the colonial elite centralised political, economic and civic power, reserving top jobs in the public and private sector and education only to fellow colonials. The way it was, was that the institutions that should have traditionally been serving as watchdogs against corruption; the judiciary, police and other security services, selectively served only the elite. These institutions were more often subservient to the all-powerful colonial administrator, the governor. The colonial private sector, producing in most cases for export to the imperial market, was usually deeply dependent on the colonial government for licences, contracts and subsidies and rarely held the colonial government accountable. With few exceptions, the colonial media were equally bridled.
Without dismantling what I have just described Zambia will remain at the mercy of “the” Great Leader of this great nation. This is one of the reasons nothing has changed 53 years down the road. Changing Edgar Lungu is not the solution but giving constitutional powers to institutions. Empower the ACC, the ZPPA, Public Media, Judicial Boards, etc so that even the Head of State would have genuine respect for them. Let senior officials at these institutions be appointed by parliamentary select committees and be answerable to parliament. Let their tenure of office be guaranteed. Allow interviews of such officials be public, on parliament radio and TV so that their selection is transparent.
The enhanced Bill of Rights would have been a great starting point!