This is article 2 of 6 in the series ‘ A Critical Analysis of the Imperialist Driven Constitution by Chief Chitimukulu ‘
- A Critical analysis of the Imperialist Driven Constitution Part 1- The Preamble
- A Critical analysis of the Imperialist Driven Constitution Part 2 – One Man,One Vote
By Henry Kanyanta Sosala-Chitimukulu
One Man, One Vote
During the colonial rule, the franchise was defined in terms of income, property and educational standards. The motto was: ’’Equal rights for every civilized man. Who is a civilized man? A man whether white or black who has sufficient education to white his name, has property or works, in fact is not a loafer.’’ The rate of progress therefore towards African majority rule was presumed to be mechanical and based on an objective test of educational standards and income levels.
The freedom fighters were demanding for universal suffrage. During the struggle for independence, the African political wisdom was summarized in the slogan, “one man, one vote.” And when independence was achieved, it came as a package deal, which had extended the vote to the peasants.
And therefore “one man, one vote” was the only legacy that we second-class citizens had firmly held on to, which was bequeathed to us by our uneducated ancestors who spilled their blood for this country’s independence. And this simply meant that anyone aspiring for whatever political office should have our endorsement in in-spite of our humble status in life.
Zambia has had four constitutions since the attainment of independence in 1964:
(a) The 1964 Constitution (independence Constitution).
(b) The 1973 One-Party Constitution (Mainza Chona Constitution).
(c) The 1990 Constitution (Patrick Mvunga Constitution).
(d) The 1996 Constitution (John Mwanakatwe Constitution).
The Zambian People are ruled by instruments they cannot comprehend let alone make any sense of
What is amazing is that in July 2008, European constitutional experts at a meeting in Germany said at their deliberations that there was nothing like a ‘’constitution that would stand the test of time,’’ since situations change and generations change. What is meant is that, some articles in the famous American Constitution have been altered since 1770 when it was enacted, but they do not as we do throw away the old constitution in order to enact a new one.
Professor Michelo Hansungule in Keynote Paper: Constitutionalism and Constitutional Development wrote:
‘’The problem behind this mushrooming of constitutions in such a short time is that it would appear that Presidents want to have a new constitution at every turn of the road. Politicians think that the answer to every problem they face is to have a new constitution, which is not the case. Even when it is in order to cater for their ambitions, they turn to the constitution and this is the real problem Zambia faces.
‘’Most Zambians do not have a clue about ‘their’ constitution. Few have had a feel of it and even fewer can recite more than one line. The only interaction between authorities and the people hearing on the constitution is when there is a Commission of Inquiry going round the country asking people to advert their minds on the terms of reference set up by the authorities in Lusaka relating to their governance. Besides this, opportunities of engagement over the constitution do not exist.
‘’The terms in the constitution are intimidating to most people. The Zambian Constitution, unlike the South African Constitution, for example, is not user friendly. It is a constitution, which sounds like it was made for people in London or Stockholm but not for people in Ng’ombe compound in Lusaka or Siangombo district in Western Province. This elitist tendency is deliberate. The rulers do not really make an effort to come up with a constitution that people can understand and use in the local situations. Some of the terms used in the constitution are such that even legislators cannot make sense of them. The 1996 constitution of South Africa has departed from this tendency. The constitution is user friendly and written in a language that ordinary people can understand. South African authorities went to the extent of recruiting English experts to break down the legal texts written by draftspersons and put them into simple ordinary English. This is what can be called a ‘people’s’ constitution.
‘’Nearly all the two hundred plus chiefs we have had in our workshops have never seen the Zambian constitution, let alone know it and yet they are expected to administer their communities as part of the executive branch of government. This is one reason why it is so simple to be dictatorial in Africa. People are ruled by instruments they cannot comprehend let alone make any sense. Constitutions are regarded as documents better left to the rulers who know better, yet scholars say they are products of the people. Which people? It is very easy in these circumstances to use the constitution to fool the people into submission to misrule.’’
On the point of ‘’misrule,’’ I’ll quote from Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika’s manuscript, Sower of Independence: Case for Re-Decolonisation of how the UNIP regime manoeuvred to take total power to control and silence their political opponents.
‘’……..in Zambia, lack of restraint on government is supported by the original independence constitution’s presidentialism, which allows for one person to be the head of state, head of government, commander-in-chief of the armed forces and leader of the ruling party, with a legislature that is dominated by the executive branch. As if this was not enough, government leadership manoeuvred through the 1969 ‘Referendum to end all referenda.’
‘’Zambian journalist, the late Goodwin Mwangilwa in The Kapwepwe Diaries exposed a broader context in which this referendum was conducted and it illustrates the naked nature of the post-colonial nation-state in Zambia. In this vein, he has written that:
In 1966, Nalumino Mundia had been relieved of his post for having a business interest when he was a minister. He joined forces with United Front, an ANC splinter group led by Berrings Lombe. It later became United Party. Under the 1964 Constitution, the government could only hold dissidents for a specific period after which it was compelled to appoint a tribunal made up of three judges to review the cases of detainees. With growing discontent and need for government to flex its muscle against opposition, it became inevitable that the clause dealing with fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals and protection of an individual against deprivation of property be repealed. But to do so required a nation-wide referendum in which government was expected to have (at least) a fifty percent majority.
It is difficult to sell such constitutional changes to a suspicious electorate guarding their civil liberties jealously, so in the ensuing campaign towards the Referendum to end all referenda on 17th June 1969, emphasis was placed on other issues especially land which was ‘held in perpetuity’ by the white settlers who had bought it for a song.
Vice-President Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe in the thick of the campaign had said,
‘The British have never liked a black man. For seventy years, they never made laws to protect his interests here. But at the end of (their) regime in 1964, they made a clause which bars us from taking over shops and vast tracts of absentee ownership.’
Toasting UNIP’s victory in the referendum on July 13, Kapwepwe said it was a fulfillment of several of the Party’s objectives to ensure absolute power was handed over to the real owners of the land.
But Mwangilwa goes on to record that:
Two years later…..Things had soured. Having left the Party and government in frustration, Kapwepwe had formed the United Progressive Party in order to fight elections and take over government so that he would strictly adhere to the constitution that he claimed UNIP had ‘ditched.’ Seventy-five Kapwepwe’s best officials and supporters were picked up in a raid conducted in the early hours of the morning of 20th April 1971. Kapwepwe denounced the infringements of the constitution. He said the arrests were ‘worthy of a Hitler.’
post-colonial governments have been ‘preoccupied with how to win and retain power
post-colonial governments have been ‘preoccupied with how to win and retain power
‘’Clearly, the 1969 Referendum result was, and was intended to be, a licence for easily changing the constitution, and everything else government wants, in the direction of further consolidating and concentrating power in the presidency, including imposing proscribing all opposition parties and imposing a one party state and continuing with the colonial practice of detaining political nonconformists. Indeed, before and since then, post-colonial governments have been ‘preoccupied with how to win and retain power, overriding the need for due sense of balance and restraint.’ Thus, the post-colonial nation-state has not only been inappropriate, but also much abused, at the cost to civil and human rights and there have been no sacred cows.’’
History is the serial obituary of men whom the same type of constitution designed by the British Government gave the powers of invisibility. George Sydney Abugri wrote that
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the Pan-African champion who led Ghana to independence, but ended up as a repressive despot and declared a one party state and whose opponents tried to kill seven times via bomb explosions. He was eventually overthrown by America’s CIA using Nkrumah’s local detractors as a front. (New Africa magazine No. 490 December 2009 pp 40/41).
The lesson is clear: liberty and monopoly cannot live together.
…………To be continued