By Henry Kyambalesa
I cannot think of any reason (rational or otherwise) for a constitutional Article or Clause requiring the Republican president to appoint government ministers from elected or nominated Members of Parliament (MPs).
Apart from our failure to discern the benefits of a constitutional Article or Clause that provides for appointments of government ministers from MPs, and our apparent resistance to change, the opposition to the proposal concerning the appointment of ministers from the general public at large seems to be aimed at according greater control of the legislative arm of the government by the Republican president through ministers, and protecting the president from impeachment.
Impeachment is a damn good thing if and when a president is in violation of constitutional provisos, or when he or she engages in irregular behavior that is likely to tarnish the country’s image. As such, “impeachment” is a viable mechanism for peacefully replacing corrupt and incompetent leaders.
And the argument that it would be difficult for ministers who are appointed from outside Parliament to execute their duties as they would not understand issues affecting people at the grassroots tells us volumes about the emptiness of some of the government officials who are appointed to serve the people. This kind of thinking is snobbish, and it is clearly an insult to so many competent and hardworking Zambians who actually understand the problems facing the citizenry and are diligently serving their fellow citizens every day in various positions, but are not MPs.
One does not really need to be an MP in order to understand the socioeconomic problems facing the common people. It is, therefore, foolish for anyone to belittle the intellect and competence of Zambians who are not MPs to effectively serve their fellow citizens in ministerial positions.
There is actually the possibility that the ruling political party would want to use the Articles and Clauses relating to the appointment of government ministers as a campaign tool by telling voters that they should not vote for presidential candidates from political parties which do not have a majority in parliament, because such candidates will have problems in finding competent individuals among their few MPs to form government.
I admire the USA in this regard, where members of the president’s cabinet are not elected members of the U.S. Senate. And there are no nominated members of Senate or Congress! And all the members of Senate (and Congress) are directly elected by the people!
Of course not all aspects of the American system of governance are good enough to be emulated, such as the use of what is referred to as the “electoral college”—that is, a small number of representatives elected by voters in each of the 50 states to elect the country’s president and vice president, and which essentially provides for only 2 presidential candidates.
The appointment of the Vice President, Provincial Ministers and Deputy Ministers should be from Zambians who are qualified to be elected as Members of Parliament, but who are not Members of Parliament for the following reasons:
(a) It can afford a Republican president or President-elect a larger pool of competent people from which he or she can appoint ministers;
(b) It can provide for greater separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of the government;
(c) It can afford presidential aspirants enough time to identify potential ministerial appointees well before tripartite elections rather than waiting for parliamentary elections to be concluded;
(d) It can lead to the distribution of income to more citizens and thereby reduce existing income disparities;
(e) It can reduce the apparent work overload on government officials who have to handle both ministerial and parliamentary functions; and
(f) It can correct the anomaly that a government official can be accountable to an institution of which he or she is a bona fide member, as stipulated in Article 51 of the 1996 Republican constitution, which states that “The Cabinet and Deputy Ministers shall be accountable collectively to the National Assembly.”
The Republican president can still be required to nominate at most ten members of the general public from groups which are ordinarily under-represented in Parliament, including women, the youth, the elderly, the handicapped, and chieftains.
The author, Mr. Henry Kyambalesa, is a Zambian academic currently residing in the City and County of Denver in the State of Colorado, USA.