Friday, 24 April 2009


By Gershom Ndhlovu

If the National Constitution Conference (NCC) recommendation that the Vice President should automatically take over the presidency in the event that the incumbent vacates office due to death or incapacity is included in the new constitution, it will mean Zambians losing one existing right and potentially denying them another one.

Firstly, the NCC not recommended that the Vice President be made running mate of the president in an election means that people will be denied the right to elect the vice president by the larger Zambian constituency rather than by a smaller constituency unit. Such a person taking over the presidency would do so without the people’s general mandate.

Secondly, the automatic assumption of the presidency by the Vice President without a by-election has taken away the right of the people to decide who takes over as the current constitution guarantees.

Of course, Zambia has experienced a sad episode of the demise of a sitting president and a by-election, and I am sure that the recommendation comes as a result of that. I am sure that what many well meaning Zambians doubt is whether there is any justification, apart from the costs which are necessary in a democracy, for that fundamental change in the constitution. But coupled with that, is the arrogance with which the politicians from the ruling party are going about it.

What would be the most ideal situation is that such a person is scrutinised by the general Zambian electorate in the first place but, as I have stated above, would have just been elected in one corner of the country or in a worst case scenario, just nominated as Member of Parliament and appointed vice president.

Not taking away anything from him, but President Rupiah Banda is himself a case in point. He was just nominated by the late President Levy Mwanawasa in 2006 and today he has taken occupancy of State House through that fluke appointment less than three years ago.

The NCC delegates should have also looked at the history of instability in the office of the vice president. In the last 17 or so years of the MMD in power, not less than seven people have occupied that office starting from Levy Mwanawasa himself in 1991 to George Kunda today. In between there have been people like Godfrey Miyanda, the late Christon Tembo, Enoch Kavindele, Nevers Mumba, Lupando Mwape and Rupiah Banda himself in that order.

Simply put, there is no security of tenure in the office of the vice president because whoever occupies it, does so at the pleasure of the president who is the appointing authority and can be removed at any time. For this reason, the president could appoint a weak person who would not be inclined to challenge him for any reason, including wrong decisions, for him to continue enjoying the comfort of Government House and other facilities and benefits attached to it.

It appears to me that the MMD members on the NCC and their proxies are not thinking through some of the recommendations they are passing. The motivation is clearly to entrench the MMD in power given the control that the ruling party has on the Electoral Commission of Zambia, an organisation which lacks the full confidence of the people.

The danger is that whoever will come in power after President Banda, especially if it he or she will come from the opposition, will change the constitution. It will be a cycle repeated over and over and it is doubtful if we will ever come up with one that will stand the so-called test of time.

There is equally no guarantee that even an MMD president will not change the constitution. Zambians know that when President Mwanawasa took over from Chiluba, he ripped the Chiluba constitution which is in the process of being re-written. We all thought that this should have been the opportunity to put in a good document especially that the constitution making process costs money which could be better used in other areas of development.

Sadly, Zambians are once more being taken for a ride by the very people they put in office by drafting a constitution that takes away their fundamental rights. One would have hoped that Vice President George Kunda, who is also justice minister, should have done a better job considering that he was once president of that luminous legal body, the Law Association of Zambia.

Equally sad is the fact that most of the people sitting on the NCC are just interested in the huge allowances they are earning when everyone else faces the spectre of joblessness as a result of the global economic meltdown.


So President Rupiah Banda knows it when he is being told lies by the people who have access to him? Yes Sir, this type of flotsam has spoiled lives of many honourable men and women of our beautiful country who have wrongly being reported to heads of state who have acted on the information based on lies.

People have lost businesses, professions, jobs, and unfortunate ones, even their lives because of such liars.

The people who tell lies to presidents have probably wanted to win favours for themselves or have done so merely out of jealous and malice. A good President would indeed verify this information through the professional system and if needs be, ask the people so maligned for their side of the story.

Many a time, these lies would be disproved and it would be appropriate if the liars were exposed right there and then, and if needs be, even punished. What is sad in the Zambian case is that even people who have held ministerial positions have done that to settle simple scores with ordinary citizens.

Zambia needs a lot of healing from this type of people and other political misfits who have gotten to the top through deceit, backstabbing and utter lies. And there is no better place from where to start this process than from the President himself.

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