By Gershom Ndhlovu
The late Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, when he was first sworn in as Zambia’s third President, told the nation that his would be a government of laws and not of men. This became the mantra of all those he appointed to serve with him and so it was for the seven years he led the nation.
Barely 18 months after his demise in August 2008, it appears that the “government of laws” has been thrown out the window and “the rule of men” is back. I refer here to the fragrant disregard of the Constitution with regards to PF leader Michael Sata’s apparent incarceration in the late 1950s or early 1960s for unknown reasons which the MMD government wants to use to bar him to contest next year’s presidential elections.
Unless the Chifumu Banda-led NCC is in the process of altering what has always been a fundamental part of Zambia’s past constitutions including the 1996 one, a simple search of the Constitution of the Republic of Zambia (as amended by Act No. 18 of 1996) on the National Assembly website reveals the following provisions on the requirements for the eligibility of contesting the presidency.
Clause 34 states that “(1) The election of the President shall be direct by universal adult suffrage and by secret ballot and shall be conducted in accordance with this Article and as may be prescribed by or under an Act of Parliament.
(2) An election to the office of President shall be held whenever the National Assembly is dissolved and otherwise as provided by Article
(3) A person shall be qualified to be a candidate for election as President if-
(a) he is a Zambian citizen;
(b) both his parents are Zambians by birth or descent;
(c) he has attained the age of thirty-five years;
(d) he is a member of, or is sponsored by, a political party;
(e) he is qualified to be elected as a member of the National Assembly; and
(f) has been domiciled in Zambia for a period of at least twenty years.
(4) A candidate for election as President (hereinafter referred to as a Presidential candidate) shall deliver his nomination papers to the Returning Officer in such manner, on such day, at such time and at such place as may be prescribed by or under an Act of Parliament.
(5) A Presidential candidate shall not be entitled to take part in an
(a) he has paid such election fee as may be prescribed by or under an Act of Parliament on or before the date fixed by the Electoral Commission in that behalf;
(b) he makes a statutory declaration, of his assets and liabilities, which shall be open to public inspection at such time and at such place as may be prescribed by or under an Act of Parliament; and
(c) his nomination is supported by not less than 200 registered voters.”
Clause 65 further states that “(1) A person shall not be qualified to be elected as a member of the National Assembly if-
(a) that person is under a declaration of allegiance to some country
other than Zambia;
(b) that person is under any law in force in Zambia, adjudged or otherwise declared to be of unsound mind;
(c) that person is under a sentence of death imposed on him by a court in Zambia or a sentence of imprisonment, by whatever name called, imposed on him by such a court or substituted by a competent authority for some other sentence imposed on him by
such a court;
(d) that person is an undischarged bankrupt, having been adjudged or otherwise declared bankrupt under any law in force in Zambia;
(e) that person's freedom of movement is restricted, or that person is detained under the authority of the law; or
(f) that person, within a period of five years before his nomination for election, has served a sentence of imprisonment for a criminal offence. (My emphasis).
(2) A person who holds, or is a validly nominated candidate in an election for, the office of the President shall not be qualified for election s a member of the National Assembly.”
As far as the nation can remember, Mr Sata has not been in jail in the last five years as clause 65 (f) above states which means that he is eligible to contest the election to the office of the President or Member of Parliament. It is wrong for Mr Mangani or whoever it is that is directing this operation, to waste national resources to unearth dusty files of a case that is five decades old.
These resources in terms of time and allowances, can be directed elsewhere seeing that our nation faces a lot of challenges immediate of which are the floods and the concomitant cholera outbreak which is afflicting the flood victims. It is a shame that the new Constitution that is in the process of being formulated is being tuned to fix an individual and at the same time, the existing Constitution is wilfully being ignored.