By Winnie Zaloumis
In recent months, there have been a spate of statements in the media dishonestly calling for a Convention for the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) in 2016 that were coming from disgruntled former members who were expelled, had defected to other parties or resigned. These impostors making statements in the media were all falsely claiming to still be MMD office bearers even though they have been replaced by others. They have no moral right to even say anything about MMD.
The issue of the Convention is the preserve of MMD members and the National Executive Committee (NEC). As per MMD Constitution in articles 14(2), 14(3), 15(1) and 19(g), only the NEC can make determination of the date and nature of the Convention. The five-year tenure of the MMD president is protected by the constitution in Article 40(1) and is not attached to the mandate of the current NEC. There is no provision for a presidential by-election in the MMD constitution anywhere.
Only an acting President elected by NEC can be subjected to a Convention at whatever time it is called. In our case, the current President Dr Nevers Sekwila Mumba is the product of a full-fledged Convention in 2012 that had more than a thousand delegates and comes with a constitutional mandate of five years that expires in 2017. The same constitution which provides for a Convention also provides for the security of tenure for the President.
The NEC as the highest party organ in between Conventions decided on 30th January 2016 to postpone the scheduled 2016 convention to coincide with the expiry of the President’s mandate in 2017. We are aware of the argument made by some expelled former MMD members who claim that the 2016 Convention for the NEC cannot be postponed because of Article 14(1) which provides for a regular Convention every 5 years. The last regular Convention was in 2011, meaning that the next one is in 2016, five years later.
However, we have a historical precedent of MMD Conventions not ever coinciding with the 5 year cycle. The first MMD Convention was held in 1991 but the next one was held in 1995, a year earlier than it should have been held. The next one was in 2001, six years later instead of five. Then it was held in 2005, four years later. The next one was supposed to be held in 2010 but it was pushed to 2011, six years later and not five. There is not a single MMD convention that was held 5 years after the previous one.
It is clear from this history that the date of the Convention is not fixed in concrete, but can be rescheduled outside the 5 year cycle for any compelling reason according to the circumstances at the time. Apart from 1991, history shows that having a convention in an election year is not advisable because the party has no time to heal from divisions that inevitably arise from having winners and losers.
The 2001 MMD convention coincided with the worst electoral performance of the party when it got 29% of the presidential vote. In 2011, MMD lost the elections after holding its convention just 5 months earlier. Having a convention in this election year would be tantamount to political suicide and the decision by the party to hold a convention in 2017 was thus prudent.
The same NEC that has powers to call a Convention as per articles 14(2) and 15(1) can decide to postpone or indeed bring forward the date of the Convention and they have done that now on five occasions. The rescheduling of the regular convention in previous years was done within the constitution because not only is the specific date of the Convention the preserve of the NEC, but it also has powers according to Article 56(1) “… to make regulations, rules and Standing Orders for the effective carrying out of the provisions of this Constitution”. The NEC therefore has constitutional powers to make a resolution to delay or bring forward a scheduled Convention.
As for the argument that the mandate of the current NEC will expire in 2016, there is no mention in the MMD Constitution anywhere of a five-year term of office for the NEC members and we challenge anyone to prove otherwise by quoting the appropriate article.
Ms Winnie Zaloumis is the MMD Deputy National Secretary
MMD CONSTITUTION: RELEVANT ARTICLES
The Convention shall:
(f) by secret voting elect the National Executive Committee of the Party.
(1) A regular Convention of the Party shall be held every five years.
(2) The Convention shall be summoned by the National Executive Committee one month prior to its meeting.
(3) The National Executive Committee when summoning the Convention shall distribute the agenda which it proposes to table at the Convention.
(1) The National Executive Committee may on its own initiative, or at the request of at least one third of the Provincial Executive Committees convene an extra-ordinary meeting of Convention.
The National Executive Committee shall have the following functions and powers:
(a) to be the Chief Political and organisational Organ of the Party.
(f) to be the highest organ of authority between two Conventions.
(g) to convene the Convention of the Party.
(o) to summon extra-ordinary meetings of the Convention as well as the Provincial and District Conferences.
(1) The President of the Party shall hold office for two (2) terms of five years each and shall not be eligible for re-election.
(1) The National Executive Committee shall have power to make regulations, rules and Standing Orders for the effective carrying out of the provisions of this Constitution and for the proper running of the Party.