Friday, 12 September 2008

FIX CONSTITUTIONAL FAULTS

By Gershom Ndhlovu

It is very difficult to appreciate United Liberal Party (ULP) president, Sakwiba Sikota’s logic that the forthcoming presidential by-election should be abandoned to allow acting President Rupiah Banda to continue the late President Levy Mwanawasa’s mandate until 2011.

Much as we appreciate the colossal costs that will go with the exercise, this is the price we have to pay for not only the faulty constitution we have in place but also for the enhancement of democracy and the rule of law in the nation.

One would have thought that Sikota would have been wearing a lawyer’s hat rather than a politician’s hat which is controlled more by emotional rather than rational thought. Zambia is a young democracy and it does not mean that unfortunate events of the last couple of months in which a sitting president has died in office would not occur again but God forbid.

For Zambia to avoid the costs that will go with the forthcoming presidential by-elections there is need for the nation to work out a constitution that foresees such occurrences so that in future, a vice president should automatically assume the presidency in the event that the holder vacates the seat for any reason, death included.

I will say that we are lucky as a nation in the sense that we have the controversial National Constitution Council (NCC) sitting in the midst of all this constitutional mess which one hopes that it would now be cleaned up. This is where the Chifumu Banda-chaired NCC should strongly recommend that a vice president is a running mate of the presidential candidate in an election.

The current situation is absurd. Just look at how many vice presidents we have had since 2002 when the late Mwanawasa assumed the presidency. Four in six years, meaning that on average, vice presidents have held office for 18 months each showing that these people serve at the mercy of the president who has the prerogative to appoint and disappoint them. Mwanawasa started with Vice President Enoch Kavindele from the Chiluba administration, followed by Pastor Nevers Mumba who was poached from the opposition National Citizens Coalition, followed by Lupando Mwape and subsequently Rupiah Banda, essentially a UNIP member whom time, fortune and circumstance has favoured with the presidential trophy.

At this point, the constitution should re-define the role of the vice president instead of one who just dispenses relief food and tents in the wake of droughts and floods. The American model of the relationship between president and vice president, would suit us in the circumstances.

Political parties would also help if they consolidated democratic practices within their organisations by adhering to their party constitutions. Clearly, the way Mwanawasa dealt with the issue of the party vice presidency did not help matters when, on his demise, MMD NEC members had to sit to pick a candidate for the presidential by-election instead of a vice president automatically assuming the presidency.

The democratic credentials of the biggest opposition party, the PF, are equally nothing to write home about. The goings on at the UPND convention at which Hakainde Hichilema was elected is a millstone around the opposition’s party’s neck--democratic principles were thrown out the window for the sake of the late Anderson Mazoka’s fellow tribesman replacing him.

Political parties should internally be strong to avoid manipulation by sitting presidents. The MMD itself has been manipulated by the two presidents it has had in the last 17 years of its existence. First it was President Chiluba who treated it like his personal turf and then President Mwanawasa who did not have a vice president when he was elected party president.

The problem is basically that NEC officials and other members who end up as national conventional delegates are afraid of challenging the party and republican president simply because of the favours that they get or they expect to get from him for singing the loudest praise songs of him.

The praise singing has already started for MMD presidential candidate Rupiah Banda who is most likely to be elected MMD president at the next convention in two years’ time.

 

 

This last week I have come across two quotes on the internet regarding issues of governance:

The first one which caught my eye on the New Zambia blog is this: “Why did Mwanawasa surround himself with his relatives and in-laws? Kaunda had many faults but none of the members of the central committee were his hard core relatives, not even Chiluba. Perhaps they chose people they had worked with in the journey of life.
Why did these people [sic] prefer an outsider for VP. These questions are cardinal to understanding the future of
Zambia. A true leader who will fight corruption in Zambia will be one with no nepotism issues in his pocket.
The stress and pressure of not being able to chastise his relatives is what caused his uncontrollable BP and of course his death. Nepotism and hero-worshiping led the doctors who were supposed to be treating him to spend afternoons kneeling down in the Zambian oval office, nepotism led to the entire president being treated less adequately than my father whose doctor is a frustrated physician and a member of the Royal College but does things by the book so my 90 year old father is alive, poor but well. My president was being treated by doctors who can’t remember the last time they read a journal on cardiovascular diseases, receiving orders from the first lady.
"Why on earth do you expect my husband to eat like a poor man with no salt" and of course the medics would say not to worry perhaps just as he wishes.”

Whether this contributor wrote from facts or not is difficult to say, but it brings into perspective the Machiavellian philosophy of leadership of not listening to advisors which can lead to tragic consequences.

The second quote is on a friend’s Facebook internet social network page which says: “Doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government always gets in.” A nugget of wisdom there, Ross Day.

2 comments:

Zedian said...

I suppose a political party's internal democratic practices, or lack their of, are an indication of what 'democracy' they would dispense should they ascend to power.

“Why did Mwanawasa surround himself with his relatives and in-laws?"

Well, having differed with just about everyone he found in Chiluba's MMD, this was the only way that Mwanawasa could ensure some sort of grip on the reins of power.

In that process, Mwanawasa took nepotism to new heights, reversing a trend that KK spent the best part of three decades dismantling. Levy's practice has cost the Zambian govt (ultimately the tax payer) untold sums in dodgy contracts which were not subjected to proper scrutiny because the people involved were Levy's cronies.

Levy's nepotism has also deprived many a qualified Zambian professional of opportunity because he planted cronies in not only political positions but also the civil service.

Yet, this is a President the Post newspaper has hailed as a true democrat.

Brian Malama said...

The media is a conduit for representation of both public and private thought and action for individuals as well as institutions. The media has often played significant roles in the political process, in democracies, in disseminating and distribution of information; subsequently a crucial part of attempts at managing the nation. Africa’s experience with Constitutionalism has not been a happy one in the thirty years since most Sub-Saharan countries became independent. Jeswald Salacuse, (1998) argues that the great enthusiasm of the early 1960’s that greeted news of Constitutions providing for democracy, the rule of law, and guarantees of human rights has, in many places, been dashed by military coups, emergency decrees, suspension of Constitutional guarantees, and autocratic, abusive rule. “ Faced with a deepening economic crisis and government that seem unable to cope, Africans are challenging existing political arrangements and seeking Constitutional orders that will give them a better life,” The press saves two primary functions in a democracy. Keeping a close watch on established authority in order to check abuse of power, such as corruption; keeping the electorate fully aware, appraised about all pertinent issues as to elicit their maximum participation in the community affairs (Jackall, 1995). The Press constitutes a vital cog in society regardless of its political complexion; the move in a democratic society which lays emphasis on the need for an informed citizenry to nurture the ideals of democracy the centrality is rooted in the assumption that democratic governance is well possible in a society where the bulk of the populace is ignorant. By and large it’s the media’s responsibility to play an honest role in correcting faults in the Zambian beleaguered constitution! The media exposed itself when it openly showed biases during and after the Willa Mun’ngomba constitution review commission, it is plausible to argue that the press was obsessed with divided loyalties and allegiances. I therefore think that unless the young Turks, weed out those crazy bald heads with protruding pot bellies from the corridors of power. The fight to change this constitution with glaring faults will remain a pipe dream for many years to follow.