By Henry Kyambalesa
The decision by the Oasis Forum to embark on a series of nationwide efforts to put pressure on the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) and the government to conclude the constitutional review process this year is a clear reflection of its members’ commitment to be major voices of the voiceless in our beloved country. They, therefore, deserve the support of all Zambians who have the interest of Zambia at heart in this endeavor.
The statement made recently by Vice-President George Kunda in Parliament that the NCC will conclude its work in 2010 is a setback to the constitutional review process, which was initiated in February 2003 with the establishment of the Mung’omba Constitutional Review Commission (CRC).
The delay in the constitution-making process from December 2005 when the CRC presented its report and Draft Republican constitution to date seems to be the result of both personal and partisan interests.
It seems to be a result of MMD leaders’ opposition to the CRC’s recommendations relating to the appointment of Ministers from outside Parliament, the 50 + 1 requirement for winning the Republican presidency, presidential candidates having running mates, and so forth.
Opposition to the recommendation concerning the appointment of Cabinet Ministers from the general public, for example, is a result of attempts aimed at according greater control of the legislative arm of the government by the executive President through Ministers, and protecting the President from impeachment.
In this regard, Ms. Mutale Nalumango was quoted on February 26, 2005 as having said that the government rejected the recommendation to appoint cabinet ministers from outside parliament because doing so would put the President in a precarious position because he or she would have no control over parliament and, in the case of an impeachment motion, he or she would be vulnerable.
And the argument by Mr. Gabriel Namulambe that “it would be difficult for ministers who are appointed outside parliament to execute their duties as they would not understand issues affecting people at the grassroots” tells us volumes about the flawed reasoning of some MMD leaders, cronies, sycophants and sympathizers.
It certainly makes no sense for a tiny fraction of Zambians who are members of the NCC to suppress recommendations that were made by the CRC based on submissions made by citizens nationwide, such as the recommendation requiring a Republican president to appoint members of his or her Cabinet from non-Members of Parliament, which is important for several reasons.
1. Cabinet-level appointments from the Zambian society at large can afford a Republican president a larger pool of competent people from which he or she can constitute a Cabinet.
2.It can provide for greater separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government.
3.It can afford presidential aspirants enough time to identify potential ministerial appointees well before general elections rather than waiting for parliamentary elections to be concluded. Further, it would reduce the work overload on government officials who have to handle both ministerial and parliamentary functions.
What the government needed to do soon after the Mung’omba CRC submitted its Draft Constitution was to have a panel of representatives from duly registered political parties (1 from each of the 26 parties then) to constitute a body of 15 or so independent Zambian technocrats and charge them with the responsibility of ironing out any errors and inconsistencies in the Draft Constitution within a few months.
This approach can still be pursued by abolishing the NCC and, in the process, save the country huge sums of money. President Rupiah Banda can show leadership on this issue rather than wait until the NCC churns out a questionable Republican constitution that will be tainted by personal and partisan interests.
If the President makes such an executive decision, it could very well be his only opportunity to leave a lasting legacy by which his administration will forever be remembered.
As things stand now, it is clear that the NCC will not produce an acceptable Republican constitution – a people’s constitution expected to stand the test of time. Rather, it will produce a constitution that will be designed to suit the vested interests of the MMD. And whatever non-MMD government that will be given the mandate to assume the governance of the country will very likely constitute yet another constitutional review commission!