New Constitution a ‘landmark’

THE 2015 Constitution is by far the most detailed and comprehensive and resulted from extensive and often acrimonious debate over several years – spanning the tenure of four Presidents, says National Restoration Party president Elias Chipimo.

Mr Chipimo said the document contained elements that were good and its enactment was generally a step in the right direction.

He said this was so because the new Constitution reduced the powers of the republican President, increased the Government accountability and also stabilized Parliament by preventing frequent and costly by-elections. “Since independence, our Constitution has undergone five significant changes: in 1969 (to do away with the need to hold a referendum whenever the Constitution was being amended); 1972 (to introduce the one-party state); 1990 (to re-introduce multiparty politics); 1996 (to adjust the one-party Constitution to suit the multi-party era although it is mainly acknowledged for introducing a citizenship clause that serveD to bar Dr. Kenneth Kaunda from re-entering politics); and now in 2015,” he explained.

Mr Chipimo said much of what has been made public about the amendments had related primarily to the politically contentious issues of a running mate, expansion of the National Assembly, dual citizenship and the need for a presidential candidate to garner more than 50 per cent of the vote to be elected.

“With the passing of the Constitution Amendment Bill, this will be the first time in our history that we will have a running mate so that if a President dies while in office there will be no need for a by-election, and it will also be the first time ever that a date for presidential, parliamentary and local government elections will be determined by the c Constitution rather than the incumbent President.”

Mr Chipimo said although the new constitutional enactments were not perfect, and without a doubt flawed, the changes should nevertheless be cautiously welcomed if there was an assurance that the referendum on the Bill of Rights would be held at the same time as the tripartite elections in 2016.

Mr Chipimo said a key challenge with the new Constitution remained one of ultimate authority when it comes to the issue of holding public officials accountable, and the failure of governance in Zambia that had generally boiled down to whom the law enforcement officials owe their allegiance to in practice. “For example, the administration of the Public Order Act tends to favour the party in power for the simple reason that the Police Inspector-General can be removed from office at the stroke of the President’s pen,” he said.