It has been stated that the publication of the new draft constitution will give a chance to the people of this country to debate the merits or demerits of this important document that will define our heritage, the present and the future. I have read the draft constitution many times already since a copy was inserted in The Herald newspaper. Some may have accessed the document through the internet or from other publications. I am glad different papers have also been publishing the draft national law.
In a document of this importance, it may be asking too much to wish that every view could have been captured. Nevertheless, there are conventions that may not be included in the constitution but may be captured when the actual implementation of the constitution takes place through acts of Parliament.
Be that as it may, I find certain provisions in the draft constitution difficult to understand. For example, the draft has a provision for a vote of no confidence in the Government. Where a vote of confidence may be passed is where a Government is led by a prime minister but not by the president.
There is a provision among the powers of the president that he shall not consult anybody in appointing his or he ministers. Parliament has no role in the appointment of these ministers of Government. To turn around and give powers to Parliamentarians to sack the Government appointed by the president, is very difficult to understand. A president is elected by the people and is answerable to the people. The president will only consult in those appointments where expert advice is required, such as appointment of judges or for other specialised institutions.
The draft constitution is silent on what happens if a president's party fails to achieve a majority of seats in the national assembly? This is the major problem faced by any presidential system where parliament is controlled by the opposition. This is the case, at present, in Zambia and even in the USA.
In the USA, the president appoints his cabinet outside Congress. If anyone in Congress is appointed then they are required to vacate their seat in the legislature. There is no vote of confidence required in the government in the USA.
I find it dangerous to marry the presidential system to that of the parliamentary system as practised in the UK. If we go presidential then it should be a presidential system where the president is supreme and wields his or her powers on behalf of the people.
Will the country go back to the inclusive government in the event that no single party has a majority in parliament? Maybe, goodwill is going to prevail to allow the president to exercise his or her powers in the absence of a majority in parliament.
In Zambia, political parties are at loggerheads since the president's party has no majority in parliament. The same goes for Malawi with the president's smaller party having to rely on the opposition parties to pass any legislation through parliament.
The same goes for the USA where the president has cut deals with the opposition in order to get his programme through Congress. The concept of proportional representation for the 60 seats reserved for women and those for senators is most welcome. The system puts great effort in the members of parliament that have to get more votes for their parties in order for each party to claim a greater number of seats for women and senators.
What this means is that those chosen to be on party lists will have to work hard with those chosen to represent constituencies otherwise they will fail to make it into the legislature. It is a very interesting development. Therefore the choice of candidates to represent each party in a constituency will be very crucial. The candidate carries a heavy burden to deliver more legislators on the party list to their parties if the party were to achieve a majority in the legislature.
What may be at stake in any implementation of a constitution is to try and build some conventions which may not be written down but understood through circumstances. This brings me to the point that a government of consensus is most welcome where the president can give ministerial posts to members of other parties or even to some of technical experts from society. The four years of the inclusive government have taught us that coming together for a common good should not be regarded as a weakness. As long as there is a respect for the presidency, the country can go forward.
What is very disturbing are the insults we see thrown at the president of South Africa in that country's parliament. After giving his state of the nation address, the president attended parliament to answer to those issues he proposed in his address to parliament. The televised debate to the nation was a farce. Opposition members went as far as saying that the president was appointing concubines to posts in his administration.
I am sure school children rushed to their dictionaries to find out what the president's concubines were or what was the meaning of the expression. It shows that the president must not attend parliamentary debates. The president should be answerable to the electorate.
The draft constitution is a wonderful document which should be approved at the referendum. There is no doubt that the provisions of the constitution will cost a lot of money, which unfortunately, we do not have. Already we have to find money to pay for the referendum and the elections. It is quite a tall order to implement a new constitution.