Law & Development: Flawed Constitutional Making-Process and Zambia’s Economic Malaise – Part I

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Charles Mwewa

Charles Mwewa

By Charles Mwewa

Can a flawed historical constitutional making process have an impact on the attendant economic malaise of a people? In the case of Zambia, and based on an Institutionalist Theory of constitutional economics (which postulates that a constitution affects economic growth and development as a guarantor of power, rights, liberties, and access to government, and which in turn determines market forces, resource allocation, and eventual income re-distribution) that answer may be an affirmative, yes!

Historically, the Zambian constitution is flawed in the following respects: it was initially created as an instrument of imperial domination (Impish Imperial Institutionalization); subsequent attempts at reviewing it have been imbued by wrong or partisan political motivations (Injurious Insular Improvements); and it concentrates economic power on a domineering central government, practically in control of everything (Intolerant Economic Institutionalization). This week I will discuss, albeit, briefly, the first aspect: Impish Imperial Institutionalization.

Impish Imperial Institutionalization

A constitution is essential to growth and development. Since it puts human welfare at its core, it should, of necessity, facilitate economic development in terms of growth, improvement in quality of life, and social and structural transformation.

In order to have a concise grasp of the constitutional review process and the rumpus this has caused in the case of Zambia, it is prudent to begin the analysis from far before independence. In 1953, at the dawn of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, an Order-in-Council was drafted to allocate powers to the federal government and to the territorial governments. This was followed in 1962 by a constitution to accommodate the participation of the European settlers and the Africans in the Legislative Council. However, and here begins Zambia’s foundational economic problems, the 1962 constitutional review was aimed at granting more electoral privileges to the settlers than to the Africans.

An imperial document of this nature was instrumental in setting in motion a pattern of political and economic inequalities. From the beginning, the constitution was designed to break society into two camps. The more powerful settlers would enjoy all the fruit of the land while the less powerful Africans would lurk under the shadows of poverty and destitution.

In 1964, just before independence, another constitution was drafted to provide a more representative framework leading to the independence of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). It also dissolved the Federation after the secession of Nyasaland (Malawi). The 1953 and 1962 constitutions are conveniently called Westminster model constitutions. In essence, they were not instruments of development as far as the interests of the Africans were concerned; rather, they were weapons of imperial domination. They were not instituted to create an equitable and just society, but one where the Africans would continue to serve the interests of the settlers. Thus, Africans did not have an informed say in the real and current issues affecting them. These constitutions were designed for the emerging nations, the former British colonies and protectorates.

The danger with such genesis of constitutional development as Zambia’s is that it can create a precedent where subsequent reviews may be marked by bigotry and partisanship. Under Injurious Insular Improvements next week, I will discuss how this impish imperial history of the Zambian constitutional making process has posed pressing economic challenges to the nation. We will begin with the real first Zambian constitutional review and the creation of the 1973 constitution which eliminated all political opposition in Zambia.


2 Responses to Law & Development: Flawed Constitutional Making-Process and Zambia’s Economic Malaise – Part I

  1. Pingback: Law and Development: Flawed Constitutional Making-Process and Zambia’s Economic Malaise: Part II | Zambian Eye

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Start: 2019-07-01 End: 2019-07-31