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An ideal constitution must reflect its domestic environment and mirror those ambitions of the people it is
written for. Indeed, at any given point, it should be possible to observe changes in a nation’s history and
progression through changes made to its text of law. For example, the 1964 constitution of Zambia bestowed
citizenship to persons presently in Zambia at that time – under certain conditions (in Chapter 2). The idea
and reality of creating and belonging to a country was very pronounced in that first document.
Thus, the bond created during the struggle for self-governance resonated strongly in that constitution. That
first document of laws captured the hopes the forerunners had for the future of the new nation under selfrule. As such, one of the most significant infractions to that constitution was in 1972 when the one-party
dictatorship was introduced. Interestingly, it was coated with the term One Party Participatory Democracy
in a quest to make it sound and feel more inclusive. This was contrary to the will of the people and natural
conscious for self-determination. The bond of nationhood which signifies mutual trust was lost.
A constitution that undermines the significance of the role of everyday people in national affairs directly
undermines the bond between the leader and people. It creates a chasm between government and its
people – who are the reason government exists. The 1991 constitution essentially reversed the focus of
constitutional power from being concentrated and position centred, to becoming people centred. The law
became, in essence and practice, a document crafted for the protection and advancement of all citizens
and not anymore, the protection of the ruling class.
The 2016 constitution enshrined national interest as the pre-eminent standard for state authority in the
executive, legislature and judiciary. It anchored the hope of nationhood of the 1964 constitution and the
eminence of citizens as cushioned in the fight for democracy in 1991. In other words, if the law is meant to
protect its people, then those whom it protects must be at the centre of that law. This is why the 1991 change
made certain that leadership was transient, not permanent. In short, those who fought to retain the dignity
of nationhood ensured that no government should rule in perpetuity.
In this respect, the most sacrosanct and incalculable value of a constitution lies in its uncompromising
ability to protect those for whom it is written. The fact that constitutions allow amendments to their text,
usually through referenda, speaks to their inherent ability to adjust to an evolving society. This quality is not
intended to prioritize politics again above the needs of citizens. Yet for all their power and wide carpet,
constitutions are creations of man. Men and women write these documents and imbue them with hope,
fortitude and best intentions for posterity.
Constitutions do not necessarily create nations but are created for the purpose of national administration
in its unforgiving complexity. There is a pre-eminence to life which is outside the mandate of a constitution.
In that place, genuine and selfless leadership is evidenced. What the law does, then, is to create and sustain
a transactional relationship where power is the ultimate commodity. That power, or positional authority is
negotiated between those seeking to govern and those seeking to find suitable citizens to govern them.
Therefore, a collection of laws that function to protect only the leadership against its own people goes
against the meaning of nationhood. Even worse, using the law for sectional than national advancement
undermines the intention of the national bond intended in the constitution. When the identity of the country
as a Christian nation is fractured, when the authority of national interest is undermined, history shows that
power reverts to the people to remake a decision about governance.


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