Scott Vs Lungu: spectator’s view

 Predictably so following the death of H.E. Michael Chilufya Sata, a leadership crisis has ensued within the ruling Patriotic Front (PF).  The main actors in the tiff being the Acting Party President Dr. Guy Scott on one hand and Edgar Lungu the party’s Secretary General on the other.  Each one of the players has cited the PF Constitution as the basis of their respective arguments.
Recently, I spent time with a named PF cadre and member of the party’s Central Committee to understand what was going on.  The gentleman was quick to say that the PF Central Committee’s actions of avoiding a General Conference was constitutional in that they were trying to protect the best interests of the party.  Reference was made to ensuring that the so-called “Cartel” to which Guy Scott is purported to belong do not impose their candidate on the party.  Now terms like “Blood Money” are being thrown around loosely with no evidence whatsoever.  But listening to interviews giving by Guy Scott, he too claims to be operating within the provisions of the party constitution.
Having read the PF constitution, when this leadership crisis began to rare its ugly head even before the Cobra was put to rest, I decided to revisit the document just incase I missed something.  I therefore, re-read all the forty pages of the PF constitution still noting the same contradications and typos as I had encountered earlier.  But in this round of reading more focus was dedicated to Articles 46, 47, 52 and 58.  The sections are reproduced below to save you time.

(1) The supreme policy-making organ of the Party is the General Conference.
(2) The General Conference shall meet ordinarily every five (5) years but May meet extraordinary session when convened as provided in this Constitution.
(3) An extraordinary General Conference shall have the same powers as the ordinary General Conference.
(4) The General Conference shall be attended by:
(a) All members of the National Council; and
(b) Up to 500 delegates from each province selected in accordance with rules made by the Central Committee.
(5) The General Conference shall have the following functions:
(a) To elect the President of the Party and Members of the Central Committee;
(b) to formulate and revise Party policies and programmers;
(c) To amend, approve or adopt Party Constitution;
(d) To define and orientate general policies for the nation’s development.
(e) To consider and approve National Development Plans.
(6) The voting at the General Conference shall be by secret ballot.

The decisions of the General Conference shall be valid and obligatory for the Party and may only be revoked or altered by the General Conference.

The Central Committee shall have the following powers and functions:
(a) Supervising the implementation of the Party policies and programmes;
(b) Programming Party policies as formulated by the General Conference or the National Council;
(c) Enforcing discipline among members and officials of the Party;
(d) Regulating and controlling activities of all organs of the Party;
(e) Ensuring that records of all Party activities are kept and supervising proper maintenance of records and books of accounts at all levels of the Party organization;
(f) Exercising the function of orientation and leadership of the Party;
(g) Initiating, whenever possible, Party policies for consideration by the National Councilor the General Conference;
(h) Orientating and controlling activities of the central organs of the State and other public institutions in the country;
(i) Guiding and giving correct orientation to popular mass organizations;
(j) Hearing appeals from appropriate disciplinary bodies;
(k) Summoning regular or extraordinary meetings of the National Councilor the General Conference;
(I) initiating and approving changes in the Regulations and Rules of the Party;
(m) Taking action which in the opinion of the Centra l Committee is in the best interest, security and development of the Party and the State;
(n) Constituting such administrative structures at the Party National Headquarters as may facilitate smooth and efficient functioning of the Party.
It is blatantly clear from the foregoing, that the PF constitution vests supreme powers in the General Conference and not the Central Commitee of the party.  What is also very clear is that the Central Committee is answerable to the General Conference of the party.  As seen above, the constitution provides for an extraordinary General Conference, where need arises and which need now has arisen.  There is no provision in the document whatsoever for acts of political expediency that Mr. Lungu’s supporters have argued save for holding of an extra-ordinary General Conference.  Obiviously, when the party was formulating its constitution (with the terminology borrowed from the UNIP Constitution) it was general knowledge that following the death of a Republican President elections have to be held within 90 days.  At this juncture, one would therefore, argue that Dr. Guy Scott is clearly on firm ground in insisting that the only provision for election of a party president is the General Conference.
But what is also interesting to note is the provision of Section (m) of Article 58.  The later clause seems to be the weapon that the Lungu camp is wielding in trying to push for adoption of Mr. Lungu as the PF’s presidential candidate through the Central Committee.  Such was the argument of Mr. Lungu’s supporter I spoke to recently citing the risk that “the party would split if Edgar Lungu is not the PF’s candidate.”  It will be unfortunate if a split occurs but in the same token it will not be the first time that we would have witnessed this in Zambia.  Our country is definitely bigger than PF.  Suffice to say here that the provisions of Section 58(m) seem like a contradiction to Article 46.  How can a lower body be able to change rules without consulting with the supreme body that founds it?  In my view, Section 58(m) cannot be read in isolation to other provisions of the PF constitution, which clearly vests the supreme powers in the General Conference.  My argument is supported by the provisions of Article 46 (5)(b).  The Central Committee’s attention also has to be drawn to Article 52(4) (although subsection 3 seems to be missing from the clause), which gives it the right to have a preferred candidate, where there are more than one applicant.  But this is not to say that NO OTHER candidates can therefore, be considered.  The PF constitution again is very clear on the procedure and process to follow in adopting candidates and the role of the Central Committee in this exercise.
While we continue to watch the PF leadership circus I hope that my PF cadre friend and disciple of Edgar Lungu revisits the party constitution to better acquaint himself with its provisions and not to just cherry pick clauses to suit a clearly undemocratic cause.
Lastly but not the least, my advise to ba Lungu is for him to be wary of the multitude of MPs purporting to be his supporters.  At a time like this a good number of them are merely trying to preserve their jobs assumming Edgar Lungu makes it to Plot 1.  It is a long time political game that even Rupia Banda experienced.  Michael Sata is gone but do not ruin that that he took years to build all because of greed and selffish interests under the guise of maintaining party and national unity.  After all is said and done God has already chosen a leader for Zambia.
N.B. The views in this article and not that of the Zambian Watchdog publication

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