The Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR) has expressed concern regarding the upcoming opening of parliament, which must be executed according to protocol by the duly elected Republican President of Zambia.
Although Vice President Guy Scott has said that President Michael Sata is “fit” and prepared to open parliament himself, recent media reports indicate that President Sata may instead be planning to temporarily appoint an Acting President to perform the official opening of parley and resume the presidency afterwards – representing a violation of the law.
“While we emphasise our sincere goodwill and sympathy for the full recovery of His Excellency President Michael Sata, the people of Zambia are entitled to a president that is capable of fulfilling the duties of office according to law, and a failure to perform the parley will signify the end of the Sata presidency,” said Robert Amsterdam, who serves as international counsel to the CDDR.
It is the position of the CDDR that in the event that President Sata is unable to perform the parley and appoints an Acting President other than the Vice President, the government will be obliged by law to call a presidential by-election within 90 days.
Under Article 38 of the Zambian Constitution concerning “Vacancy in the Office of President,” it is clearly stated that “If the office of the President becomes vacant by reason of his death or resignation or by reason of his ceasing to hold office by virtue of Article 36, 37 or 88, an election to the office of the President shall be held in accordance with Article 34 within ninety days from the date of the office becoming vacant.”
Article 38(2) continues: “Whenever the office of the President becomes vacant, the Vice-President or, 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, a member of the Cabinet elected by the Cabinet shall perform the functions of the office of the President until a person elected as President in accordance with Article 34 assumes office.”
Given that Vice President Guy Scott has already invalidated himself under the foreign parentage clause, the Constitution is clear that an Acting President shall be appointed and the countdown to a presidential by-election would begin in the event that President Sata is unable to perform the parley.
“The people of Zambia have suffered for a long time under an incapacitated president, which has led to abuses and attempted unlawful seizures of power by special interest groups, such as the group led by the Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba,” Amsterdam said. “Now the requirements of the opening of parliament demand that His Excellency perform these duties of office or stand down. Even the possibility that the government was considering a loophole to open parliament without the president appearing or stepping down represents a gross injustice.”
For the stability and the unity of the country, the CDDR implores the PF government to uphold the law and resist the temptation to rule through a proxy beyond the reach of democratic accountability.
The Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights represents a diverse group of citizens and civil society in Zambia. More information about the CDDR, including the full report to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, can be read on http://cddr-zambia.org.