The Chipimo/NAREP formula for the resolution of the constitution impasse in Zambia sounds attractive. But unless further clarified, the suggestion seems to be a vote-catching scheme disguised as a legal/constitutional option (‘this is part of our campaign’, said President Chipimo on ZNBC 18th May 2014). For now I avoid faulting the practicality of the idea but draw attention to some fundamental “constitutional” aspects that have been left hanging by the Chipimo/NAREP formula.
This formula effectively seeks to suspend the Office of President established under Article 33 (1) which states that “There shall be a President of the Republic of Zambia who shall be the Head of State and of the Government and the Commander-In-Chief of the Defence Force”. I am afraid that under this scheme the country, and especially the Defence and Security Services, shall become a headless chicken, as the whole of Part IV which establishes the system of our current political set up would also be suspended, leaving the Legislature and the Judiciary in suspended animation WITH NO EXECUTIVE arm because the dummy elected as ‘president’ would be a mere glorified Chairman of the NCC or CRC. Zambians are being asked to elect a so-called president whose only function is to bring forth a new constitution, which power even the current Constitution does not give to the substantive President under the current three-tier system of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.
Effectively the Chipimo/NAREP formula will create a vacuum where there will be no government as envisaged in the current Republican Constitution and specifically in Articles 33, 34 and 35. This is a sophisticated coup d’état, preventing the election of a President in terms of the said Articles 33, 34 and 35, but using uninformed Zambians to achieve a not so noble purpose of manipulating the current Constitution, which is the very sin the PF regime is being accused of. The formula is assuming that there will be no emergencies in the nine month period or that there will be no other urgent government functions that require executive attention and yet the current law is that executive power is reposed in the President. If there is an emergency what mandate will the so-called non-partisan Senior Citizen have to act since he is barred from doing anything besides bringing forth a new constitution? Where will you find this non-partisan creature in Zambia today? Twenty years ago maybe; today there is no one who is non-partisan: the military, police, intelligence, the Church, NGOs, chiefs (especially them), sports organisations, students, kaufela! In good governance there is always need for continuity. If there is need to go the Chipimo/NAREP way then the Legislature and the Judiciary must surely go together with the Executive so that we may start afresh!
And what of the cost of a general election immediately followed by another one to elect a substantive president? Even with the explanation that we shall only vote for the President it should be noted that the whole country would still be going out to vote, preceded by full-fledged campaigns by political parties and other stakeholders! What is the justification – the same tired cliché that democracy is expensive? Perhaps NAREP has a further explanation for this contrived conundrum!
Until a plausible explanation is given, I urge citizens for now to say NO. Even if those saying no shall be in the minority, they should go forth and keep shouting “Sorry, Mr and Mrs Majority, this time you are wrong, Double Wrong”.
[19TH MAY 2014]