Friday, 29 August 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu

It is good that Justice Minister George Kunda has restated the legal position regarding the election of a president following the demise of an incumbent, in this case President Mwanawasa who died in Paris, France after suffering a stroke in Egypt almost two months ago.

When emotions are high like they currently are, people, particularly politicians, are likely to make irrational statements, suggestions and decisions.

What is worrying though is that people are talking about a presidential ‘by-election’ without talking about the possibility of dissolution of the National Assembly so that the president so elected should start on a clean slate with a new set of Members of Parliament with a fresh five-year mandate from the people.

While Kunda stated the constitutional provisions in the event of the death of an incumbent by citing the relevant articles including Article 88 which he cited in passing, what he did not explain was the provisions of subsection 9 (b) which gives the National Assembly the power to dissolve itself.

The article in question states that ‘the National Assembly may, by a two-thirds majority of the members thereof, dissolve itself.’

This would not only be constitutional, but it would also add a moral dimension to our political dispensation when the MPs seek a fresh mandate but the incoming president goes in with MPs with a fresh mandate.

This is not only a costly venture but that is the price we should be ready to pay to not only entrench constitutionalism and the rule of law, it would also enhance democracy in the nation.

I am very sure that donors would be willing to fund the exercise if only to help entrench democracy on the continent where the rule of law is a rare phenomenon in most of the countries. This is the only way the west can promote the much needed democracy in Africa. 

One could of course argue that the National Assembly may not have sufficient reason to dissolve itself, but consider the implications of a new president say from the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) elected as head of state when his or her party only has a sprinkling of members while the MMD and the UPND retain their current numbers.

Imagine what task he or she would have to face with the “opposition” MMD with its majority members. He or she would have such a torrid time he would be forced to dissolve parliament sooner rather than later, thereby going round in circles.

Our Members of Parliament, particularly those in government, should be magnanimous enough to look beyond their gratuity that is due in 2011 instead of mollycoddling their positions. They should take steps towards dissolving themselves to give chance to the new president Zambians will elect in November to start afresh.

It is not like this issue is not addressed in the Constitution. It is all there in black and white as I have shown above. Of course the issue that comes immediately to mind is the readiness, or more appropriately the lack of it, of most of the political parties but more so the ruling MMD to find candidates acceptable to their parties membership through national conventions, congresses or councils, whatever they call them.

To borrow former President Frederick Chiluba’s words, this is the beauty of democracy, to test their popularity when they least expect it.

The argument that the life of this parliament runs up to 2011 when the next election is due, while perfectly constitutional, is morally wrong because the main player, President Mwanawasa, is no more and there is a precedent of the life of parliament being curtailed in 1991 when President Kaunda called an impromptu election, cutting short his tenure by two years.

The challenge that the MMD faces should actually provide it with an opportunity for regeneration in terms of its democratic credentials by sanitising itself from past tendencies of presidents anointing or intending to anoint their successors.

The late Mwanawasa himself hinted at picking a person he wanted to succeed him and, surprisingly, former Commerce Minister Dipak Patel is already alluding to it by discounting some people and hinting at those he would like to take over. Well and good, let MMD members in particular, and Zambians at large, pick the person they want to represent them with a new set of Members of Parliament, fair and square.



Obituaries of President Mwanawasa have been written, condolence messages sent, but I still write my belated message.

At this point, it would not be far-fetched to describe Mwanawasa in terms of blind men and an elephant who are asked to touch the beast in different areas and described it. Of course, they all describe it in terms of the parts they feel rather than the entire elephant. Such was Mwanawasa. He was understood differently by different people.

I must admit I am one of those who warmed to Mwanawasa at a stage when it was too late, a few weeks before he died, in fact.

Mwanawasa personally impressed me with the way he handled the Zimbabwean issue which, I am sure, galvanised other leaders on the continent to criticise Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe in an unprecedented way not known in Africa before.

I had keenly followed the events in Zimbabwe and what the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was doing about it and I had started wringing my hands in despair when Mr Mwanawasa broke ranks with other regional and Africa leaders at large by laying into our neighbour when he described that country as a “sinking titanic.”

Who knows, had President Mwanawasa continued for the last eight weeks of his mandate as SADC chairman, a desirable solution would have been found in Zimbabwe where MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai would have had a role.

Mwanawasa had character. Zambians can only honour him by choosing someone who will match him in the manner he handled issues relating to plunder, corruption and even in international relations where he was not afraid to rub people the wrong way if only it could improve people’s lives wherever they could be.


Anonymous said...

You raise a poignant point regarding the fate of the national assembly should an opposition candidate be elected President. It has been said the devil is in the details and indeed you have cited the provision that might redress this problem. However is there enough inducement on the part of MP's to dissolve the house?
absolutely non, most of our MP's would not have a second chance either with the electorate or the executive. They much prefer the status quo hence the blatant call by George Kunda to the electorate not to create this problem in the first place. He too as others fears the slim chance of re-election.
What other practical redress might we have then, it is the executive power to dissolve government , that ion my view is our best shot. If Sata or HH God forbid the former is elected President they will have the power to dissolve govt and appoint a new cabinet as for parliament I would say get used to it, they self serving parasites will be around till 2011.

Anonymous said...

How I can download documents from WikiLeaks?
Hope for no silence