8 February 2013

Zambia: Southern Province Debates First Draft Constitution

DELEGATES to the just-ended six-day Southern Province Constitution Convention have demonstrated that they want to be part of Zambians who desire to have a good Constitution that will stand the test of time.

This was manifested in their zeal, determination and lengthy hours of reviewing district resolutions and vernacular comments as they came up with their recommendations to the country's supreme law.

More than 150 delegates from all walks of life attended the Provincial Constitution Convention from January 29 to February 2, 2013 at Courtyard Hotel in Livingstone.

The Convention, which was chaired by Livingstone lawyer Solomon Muzyamba assisted by United Church of Zambia (UCZ) Reverend Jane Kaluba, retained and amended several Articles and Clauses in the First Draft Constitution as contained in the summarised 12-page document of resolutions.

During deliberations, delegates had to vote on contentious issues and also adopted straight forward recommendations without much debate.

One of the contentious subjects which attracted intense debate from both sides was Article 28 (3) on the Right to Life.

In Clause (1), the Draft Constitution states that a person has, subject to clauses (2) and (3), the right to life, which begins at conception.

Clause (2) states that a person shall not be deprived of life intentionally, except to the extent authorised by this Constitution or any other law.

In Clause (3), it states that a person may be deprived of life if that person has been convicted of a capital offence and sentenced to death.

During deliberations of these three Clauses, delegates did not have a lot of debate on Clauses (1) and (2) but more discussions ensued on Clause (3).

Kashumba Kabokombeki, a delegate, said Zambia is a Christian nation and upholding the death penalty would mean moving away from such a declaration.

Mr Kabokombeki said if somebody killed another person, such a people should not be killed as stated in the Bible but that he or she should be sentenced to a life imprisonment.

"That is why all presidents who ruled Zambia after first Republican President Kenneth Kaunda did not sign the death sentence because Zambia is a Christian Nation

Right now, people who are supposed to die at Mukobeko have not been hanged," he said.

Another delegate, Jeremiah Mebelo said Zambia should promote life imprisonment and not the death sentence.

Mr Mebelo said according to the Bible, the apostle Paul used to kill Christians but he later reformed and stopped killing Christians.

Roman Catholic Priest Cryford Mulasikwanda urged delegates to remove the death sentence from the Constitution because the clause was against current Christian values.

"Today we are the people of the New Testament. According to John 10:10, Jesus said he came to earth so that people might have life more abundantly. So who are we to kill others even if someone has sinned against the whole community," Fr Mulasikwanda asked.

But Mussolini Buumba said man was made in the image of God and whoever kills a man must also be put to death.

"The President can sign that a country goes to war, isn't that killing? According to the book of Numbers, some people who were found committing adultery in the tent were killed and the Bible says this was how iniquity was destroyed in the area.

Killing evil is merely removing iniquity or sin from the community and not destroying physical bodies. Even Jesus also told Peter that can you remove that ear, I tell you that those who kill with the sword will be killed by the sword," Mr Buumba said.

He quoted Romans 6: 23 which states that the wages of sin was death, saying it was important that people who kill others should also be killed.

Alice Mbula a mother, said she knew what it meant to have one's children brutally murdered.

"People who brutally murder others should not be spared. The death penalty is a must because it is a deterrent to committing capital offences.

The same Bible in John 10:10 says a thief comes to steal, kill and destroy and all we are saying is that we should stop these thieves," Ms Mbula said.

Other delegates cited the recent brutal murders in Lusaka as one of the reasons why the death sentence should be upheld to deter would be offenders.

They said there was need to uphold the death penalty to ensure that the lives of citizens were not put at risk.

Monze Member of Parliamentb (MP) Jack Mwiimbu said he was happy to note that delegates had approved clause (2) of Article 28, saying it meant that delegates had also retained the death sentence in Article (3).

"We have to realise that clause (2) and (3) are related and this means that have also approved clause (3) on upholding the death sentence.

There is no way we can approve clause (2) which provides for the termination of life for an infant and then reject a similar clause (3) on death sentence for an adult," Mr Mwiimbu said.

At this point, Mr Muzyamba subjected the Clause to a vote after which delegates voted in favour of the death sentence.

About 73 delegates voted in favour of the death sentence clause while 45 delegates voted against the clause with five delegates abstaining from the vote.

Other key highlights of the Southern Province Constitution Convention were that delegates deleted Article 60 on promotion of minority and marginalised groups.

This was because marginalised people were not properly defined and that the Article would give room for people practicing homosexuality to claim that they were a minority and a marginalised group.

It was observed that people who were marginalised in the past such as women, children, and people living with disability had adequately been provided for in the First Draft Constitution.

Delegates also amended paragraph (e) of Article 97 of Clause (1) of the first Draft Constitution by increasing the minimum academic qualification for a Presidential candidate from Grade 12 to a First Degree in any field.

This is to enable presidential candidates to be analytical as well as understand and articulate issues effectively.

Delegates also amended Article 116 (d) of the Draft Constitution so that it can state that provincial ministers should be full Cabinet members and not ex-official members.

They noted that provincial ministers should become full members of Cabinet with voting rights to enable them adequately represent their provinces.

Delegates also amended Article 81 by including all losing parliamentary and presidential candidates among the people who should not be appointed to any public office which should be expanded to include the office of the Vice president, district commissioner and Foreign Service.

The existing Clause in the draft constitution states that any person who was a candidate for election as a councillor or who stood for election as an independent, and who lost the election is not eligible, during the term of that district council or National Assembly, for appointment as (a) Minister; (b) Provincial Minister; or (c) Parliamentary Secretary.

Delegates also retained Article 120 on the appointment of Ministers from outside National Assembly provided that they are appointed on professional merit.

They also retained Article 122 on the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries among Members of Parliament (MPs) who are members of the party in Government.

On the preamble of the constitution, delegates replaced a devolved system of governance with a federal system of within a unitary State outlined on the preamble of the first draft constitution.

They recognised and upheld the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural character of the national and the self actualisation of the people living in different provinces of Zambia and their right to manage their own local affairs and resources in a federal system of governance within a unitary State.

Delegates upheld the resolution that Zambia shall remain a free, unitary, indivisible, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-party democracy sovereign State.

Still on the preamble, delegates upheld the supremacy of God Almighty and maintained the declaration that Zambia was Christian nation.

They, however, upheld the right of every person and recognised the equal worth of different communities in the nation.

Delegates also Article 148 to provide for a 50 per cent of MPs required to form a quorum for a meeting of the National Assembly.

This is because the National Assembly discusses issues of national importance in which all MPs are required to participate.

Delegates also amended Article 139 by introducing a provision to limit tenure of office for MPs to two terms which also applies to the President.

This is to ensure that MPs do not over-stay in Parliament and also to allow people with fresh ideas to participate in national development.

Delegates also upheld Article 18 on the dual citizenship clause which states that citizen shall not lose citizenship by acquiring the citizenship of another country.

They however amended Article 16 (b) to state that a person who was born in Zambia but neither of that person's parents was a citizen should apply to be registered as a citizen if that person stayed in Zambia for a period of five years and not three years recommended in the draft constitution.

On Article 47 (b) of the first draft constitution which states that the court judgement may be enforced by the execution against the State after one year of the delivery of the judgement, delegates resolved that compensation should be done within three months.

By and large, more Articles were retained and amended during the Southern Province Constitution Convention with Provincial Permanent Secretary Chileshe Mulenga commending delegates for putting aside their personal and political interests during deliberations.

Dr Mulenga, who also attended the Convention, said it was self evident that the holistic consultations would go a long way in enhancing the ownership of the supreme law of the land once it was accepted and came into force.

He said this time around, it was apparent that Zambians needed to provide for themselves a constitution that was not only people driven but also one that would stand the test of time.

"The Southern Province Constitution Convention went very well and we did not have hidden agendas and divisions along political lines.

It shows that we can achieve more as a province if we focus on important things to do," he said.

Dr Mulenga urged Southern Province delegates to the National Convention to ensure that they represent the views of the Province and not their own viewshe Convention has since elected its chairperson Solomon Muzyamba, his assistant Rev Jane Kaluba as well as four other delegates namely Harry Kamboni, Chikuba Munakasaka, Rosemary Muyangwa and Mussolini Buumba to represent Southern Province at the forthcoming National Convention.

Countrywide Provincial Conventions are now over and all eyes are focusing on the forthcoming National Convention to deliberate on the constitution.

Ultimately, it is hoped that the wishes of the people would be retained as submitted during the district as well as provincial conventions and vernacular versions.

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