The National Constitutional Conference (NCC) is a fraud. Among other things, it does not have any legitimacy in the eyes of the majority of Zambians, especially after having made highly controversial and contentious recommendations – such as the recommendations requiring a Republican presidential candidate to have a bachelor’s degree as a minimum academic qualification, and to have been resident in Zambia for 10 consecutive years preceding any given presidential election.
It should, therefore, be dissolved as suggested by Citizens Forum executive secretary Simon Kabanda, Federation of Free Trade Unions of Zambia (FFTUZ) president Joyce Nonde-Simukoko and other prominent members of Zambian society. It is not possible for a constitution-making process that is suspected of being highly politicized to produce a constitution that will be acceptable to the majority of citizens – a constitution that will stand the test of time!
We can hold the 2011 general elections under the 1996 Republican constitution and place an indefinite moratorium on the constitution-making process.
However, we can have a referendum requiring citizens to vote “yes” or “no” on whether the Republican constitution should be amended to include clauses stipulating that: (a) the Republican president should be elected by a minimum of 50+1% vote; (b) the Republican president should appoint government ministers from the general public rather than from elected members of Parliament; and (c) a specific date should be enshrined in the constitution during which general elections should be conducted.
These three issues need to be resolved, and amendments made to the current constitution based on the outcomes of the referendum, before the 2011 tripartite elections. There are a number of reasons why this should be done, some of which are stated briefly below.
The 50+1% Threshold: The Republican president needs to be elected by the majority of Zambians rather than by a simple majority as provided for in Article 34(8) of the current constitution. Amendment of Article 34(8) will, therefore, enhance our nascent multi-party democracy.
Appointment of Ministers: Ministerial 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. Secondly, it can provide for greater separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of the government.
Thirdly, it can afford presidential aspirants enough time to identify potential ministerial appointees well before tripartite 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.
There is, therefore, a need to amend Articles 46(2) and 47(3), which require the Republican president to appoint Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Provincial Ministers from elected members of Parliament.
Date for General Elections: There is a need for a constitutional clause which should provide for a specific day or date for holding general elections in order to forestall past suspicions that the ECZ director and the Republican president conspired to rig elections whenever they met to determine the dates for elections. The day or date to be considered should be during the dry season, and should give the new Republican president enough time to prepare for the hosting of Independence Day celebrations in October.
As an alternative to the dissolution of the NCC, Parliament should be tasked to appoint a group of at least ten prominent lawyers to examine the recommendations made by the Mung’omba Constitutional Review Commission for the purpose of correcting potential errors and inconsistencies in the recommendations. It makes no sense for a tiny fraction of Zambians who are members of the NCC to repeal or alter recommendations that were based on the submissions of citizens nationwide.