On 3 June 2014 The Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ) Executive Director Pukuta Mwanza said among other things that “those that think the President is not in good health should instead commit him in prayers” and that “the President is in a better position to say whether he is well or not instead of speculating on his health”.
The PF government machinery is on record assuring the people that the president is well and that there is no need to worry.
On 4 June 2014, the president himself assured the people that he is fine and that his carrying out his duties as president normally. But then why should there be so much speculation even after all these assurances and are Zambians wrong to speculate and talk about the president’s health?
First and foremost, the president and the PF should understand that the presidency is part of the governance system and any person that occupies the office of president becomes the property of the government. He becomes head of state and his decisions which potentially affects all the 13 million Zambian are affected by his state of health. If the head of state is sick to an extent were his sickness affects his ability to discharge his official duties, then the Zambian people could be justified in discussing his health because they are directly affected.
The events of the past few weeks seem to provide input into our daily discussions in offices, on the streets, our homes, market places, in public places, etc. On 1 May 2014, I so happened to have been among the many workers that turned up for labour day celebrations in Lusaka. I had not seen the president for some time before this day. I was shocked at his physical appearance as I matched passed him and it goes without saying that apart from his historical one minute speech, the day’s gossip centered around the president’s appearance, he looked very pale.
Then came the court appearance on 21 May 2014. This appearance raises alot of legal questions and otherwise. For example, does our president listen to advise? Because I doubt that his advisors advised his to go to court. The way he behaved in court, was that normal behavour befitting the head of state? Is everything really ok up stairs? And then there is the famous photo shot from the court as he was leaving, that photo speaks volumes.
Africa freedom day events 25 May 2014! We saw how the president struggled to walk straight at the freedom statue and how the whole event was cut short. The award giving ceremony at state house was cut short, only seven people were awarded and the rest were to be awarded later. No speeches which is strange for our president, he loves to talk.
He failed to turn up for the official opening of the Heros stadium and no official explanation has been given.
On 4 May 2014, I saw him on ZNBC 19:00 hours main news talking about him being fit. According to EFZ Executive Director Pukuta Mwanza, this should settle the president’s health debate since the president said he was fit. Well, I beg to differ. We have been here before as Zambian. If history has taught us anything especially in African, it is not to take a sitting president’s word on his health. The late FTJ said power is sweet and African history has taught us that the political hunger zone and the president’s handlers would rather the president expires in office than step down at the expense of the nation.
We are back at the cross roads, all the signs are there that the president is not well and has not been for a long time. Who is to call for a medical board according to the constitution? Going by our current weak constitution, we are stuck with our president. There is serious need to strengthen our governance institutions and instruments.
The current constitution places the responsibility of starting the process to investigate the president’s health on cabinet which owes its allegiance to the president. I don’t see any of the PF cabinet members doing that and later on any other government. The constitution provides:
Article 36. [Removal of President on grounds of incapacity]
(1) If it is resolved by a majority of all the members of the Cabinet that the question of the physical or mental capacity of the President to discharge the functions of his office ought to be investigated, and they so inform the Chief Justice, then the Chief Justice shall appoint a board consisting of not less than three persons selected by him from among persons who are qualified as medical practitioners under the law of Zambia or under the law of any other country in the
Commonwealth, and the board shall inquire into the matter and report to the Chief Justice on whether or not the President is, by reason of any infirmity of body or mind, incapable of discharging the functions of his office.
(2) If the board reports that the President is incapable of discharging the functions of his office, the Chief Justice shall certify in writing accordingly and shall table such certificate, with the report of the board before the National Assembly who shall on a motion, passed by a two thirds majority
(a) ratify the decision of the board, and thereupon the President shall cease to hold office; or
(b) reject the decision of the board and cause a further inquiry into whether or not the President is incapable of discharging the functions of his office and shall thereafter decide on such questions by a two-thirds majority vote, which decision shall be final.
(3) Where the Cabinet resolve that the question of the physical or mental capacity of the President to discharge the functions of his office shall be investigated, the President shall, until another person assumes the office of President or the Board appointed under clause (1) reports that the President is not incapable of discharging the functions of his office, whichever is earlier, cease to perform the functions of his office and those functions shall be performed by —
(a) the Vice-President; or
(b) in the absence of the Vice-President or if the Vice-President is unable, by reason of physical or mental infirmity, to discharge the functions of his office, by such member of the Cabinet as the Cabinet shall elect:
Provided that any person performing the functions of the office of President under this clause shall not dissolve the National Assembly nor, except on the advice of the Cabinet, revoke any appointment made by the President.
(4) A motion for the purposes of clause (1) may be proposed at any meeting of the Cabinet.
In our current setting, I don’t see the president’s auntie constituting such a board, another problem that comes with nepotism. I am not a legal practitioner but I am sure this country is not short of brilliant minds that can fix such systematic problems.
In my opinion, given what I have seen and heard from government officials, the president and the people I have mingled with, we do have a problem at hand which has political, economical and social consequences. If not handled well, the peace we so often love to talk about may slip though our fingers. Lets man-up as a country and stop the rot. A fish rots from the head.
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