Wednesday 23 May 2012

Livingstone By-Election: Campaign issues & statistics

By Paul Shalala

On 5 July 2012, registered voters in Livingstone Central Parliamentary Constituency in the Southern Province will be voting for the new member of parliament. This follows the nullification of incumbent MMD MP Lukolo Katombora's election a few months ago.
The nulification followed a successful petition by losing contestants who cited malpractices in the 20 September 2011 poll.
On 5 July, voters in Muchinga Constituency in Central Province and Chama North Constituency in newly created Muchinga Constituency will also be voting for their new MPs.

Of the three by-elections, Livingstone Central is likely to be the hotly contested due to its influence, strategic position and huge number of registered voters.

In this article, I will bring out the campaign issues, possible candidates and the statistics on the ground.

Possible Campaign issues
Like any other urban area in Zambia, Livingstone suffers from high unemployment, crime and poverty. In this tourist capital of Zambia, most young people are unemployed while a few who may have opportunities drive taxies or are involved in the hospitality industry which is heavily attached to the tourism industry. Therefore, employment creation is likely to feature heavily in the forthcoming campaigns.
Secondly, crime is another issue in the town. A few weeks ago, gunmen killed a European pilot, the following day they broke into a bureau de change and blew up a safe to have access to money. It is not long ago when Livingstone was terrorised by the infamous "batunsimbi" gang which went on the rampage beating, stealing and assaulting people. Therefore, security is also likely to be another campaign issue.
With poverty being everyone's cry in this country, voters in Livingstone will also be looking for an MP who will bring development to the area and ease the resident's suffering. Things like roads, construction or rehabilitation of schools and clinics are some of people's expectations in the area.

According to the latest voters register, Livingstone Central Constituency has 67,000 registered voters and 41,000 of them voted in last year's General Elections while more than 20,000 of them abstained from the polls. The constituency has 17 wards, 13 of whom are in the urban area.
With the realignment of Itezhi-Tezhi Constituency to Central Province, Livingstone Central is one of the 18 remaining Constituencies in Southern Province. With these lucrative statistics, the battle of Livingstone Central is likely to be a heated one considering that the stakes are high and whichever party wins on 5 July, it will carry prestige in the tourist capital.

PF Chances Of Winning
The Patriotic Front will undoubtedly field a candidate in this by-election considering that its losing candidate Joseph Akafumba is one of the people who successful petitioned the election of the MMD MP last year. The PF will ride on its incumbency, its access to mass media and its traditional support among taxi and bus drivers to bolster its chances of winning its first ever seat in Southern Province, an area which has been an opposition stronghold for 11 years now. 

The PF is also likely to capitalise on the urban vote to win this seat, remember 13 of the 17 wards are in town, so PF strategists are likely to work on this formula as they have done in most urban areas along the line of rail. By winning Livingstone Central, the PF will announce its arrival in a province which has been a headache for President Michael Sata who has had trouble getting votes in this area. In terms of a possible candidate, the PF is likely to field its losing candidate Akafumba who is a local lawyer and PF's provincial Chairman.

UPND Chances Of Winning
The UPND currently has all the 17 seats in Southern Province except Livingstone Central. This seat has eluded the UPND for a long time. This seat was previously held by ULP's Sakwiba Sikota before it shifted hands to MMD last year. The UPND has had a bulk of councillors in the Livingstone Municipal Council but the parliamentary seat has not been easy to grab. Therefore, the UPND is likely to use its grassroot support, its regional role as the sole power broker to get Livingstone Central. 

By winning this seat, the UPND will send a strong message that it has consolidated its support in the Southern Province, an area which has produced the bulk of its 29 MPS who are currently sitting in the 150 seat Parliament. A few weeks ago, rumours emerged linking Sakwiba Sikota to a UPND bid for Livingstone Central. Indeed Sakwiba may give the PF a good run for their money as he is a former MP in the area. Last year, Sakwiba didn't contest his seat but heavily campaigned for the MMD candidate in Livingstone Central.
Other Parties
The former ruling party MMD has publicly announced that it will endorse a candidate its parliamentary ally UPND will adopt, therefore we don't expect any MMD candidate in Livingstone.
Parties such as NAREP, ADD and as usual UNIP are yet to state whether they will take part in the by-election.

This by-election is likely to be heavily contested and many hope the evils of violence that has characterised recent by-elections will not manifest itself. Campaigning on issues will also help to level the playing field in order for a credible and democratically elected candidate to represent the people of Livingstone at Manda Hill (Parliament). The people of Livingstone need security, jobs, development and a good leader who will facilitate their access to the national cake.

Friday 4 May 2012

Zambia's Draft Constitution Maintains Christianity as State Religion

By Paul Shalala

Zambia’s latest draft constitution has guaranteed freedom of worship and also maintained the 16 year old declaration of the southern African country as a Christian nation.
According to Part five of the draft constitution which was released to the public in May 2012 for public scrutiny, all Zambians have a right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.
This means that Zambians will continue to enjoy their freedom to practice any religion of their choice without state control.

This proposed legislation means that that the country does not recognize any single Christian church but citizens can choose their own denomination.

If passed, the draft constitution also seeks to allow religious institutions to establish, maintain and operate education facilities in order to help the already struggling Ministry of Education which is at the moment failing to maintain its schools spread across the country.

At the moment, Zambia has hundreds of churches spread across the country and some years ago they had increased in number to an extent where the government threatened to stop registering new ones due to a perception that some clergy were personalizing and commercializing evangelism.

Meanwhile, the draft constitution has also maintained a clause which proclaims Zambia as a Christian nation.

In its preamble, the draft constitution states: “We the people of Zambia in exercise of our constituent power, acknowledge the supremacy of God Almighty, declare the republic a Christian nation but uphold the right of every person to enjoy that person’s freedom of conscience or religion.”

If this preamble will be adopted, Zambia will continue observing Christianity as its official religion and also allowing other religions to continue operating in the country.

Since 1964 when Zambia gained its independence from its colonial master Britain, the country was officially a secular state until 1996 when late President Frederick Chiluba amended the constitution and declared it  a Christian nation.

Despite the declaration, other religions such as Judaism, Islam and Hinduism have continued to grow with the Muslims building more mosques around the country.

The country has powerful church mother bodies which are very vocal on many religious and governance issues. These religious bodies such as the Council of churches in Zambia, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zambian and the Zambia Episcopal Conference, usually influence public policy and have a large say in many legal and social issues through the issuance of periodic pastoral letters which guide their followers on various issues.

During last year’s general elections, the declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation was a huge campaign issue which saw some politicians accusing each other of planning to scrap off the Christian nation clause from the constitution once they win.

Newly elected President Michael Sata, who is a devout Catholic, has on several occasions emphasised that he would govern the country on the Ten Commandments as contained in the Christian Bible.

He has further told the nation that being a Christian nation is not enough but should be coupled with the observance of the Ten Commandments.

With the release of the draft constitution, Zambians now have 40 days in which to read and submit comments on the draft constitution.

Thereafter, a Technical Committee appointed by President Michael Sata is expected to produce the final constitution in September this year before the document is subjected to a referendum and later enacted into law by Parliament.

Analysis Of The First Draft Constitution

By Paul Shalala
Reading through the 227 pages of the Michael Sata-appointed Technical Committee’s first draft constitution, am reminded of the struggles, pickets, war of words and insults that the people of Zambia have gone through over the past years on this seemingly unending constitution making process.
This draft constitution has come at a time when most Zambians seem to be tired with the words “a constitution which will stand the taste of time.” They want a constitution that appeals to their views and aspirations, a constitution which will empower them to take part in public affairs and demand accountability like in any other democracy.
Recently, the Technical Committee released its first draft constitution which is soon to be debated and adopted in provinces before a final constitution is prepared and presented to the President as scheduled in September.
Below is my analysis, observations and recommendations of this document which seeks to be approved or rejected by the Zambian people.

Contentious issues
In the previous Constitution Review Commissions (CRCs), Zambians had been submitting a number of items which they felt were dear to their hearts and they hoped those clauses would add value to the country’s wellbeing if added in the republican constitution. Most of these items were added in the respective CRCs’ draft constitutions but were unilaterally deleted from the final documents by those in the seats of authority.
It is however, interesting to note that almost all those contentious issues are included in the first draft constitution released by the Technical Committee in April 2012. These are the 50 plus one presidential election threshold or the majoritarian electoral system, the Vice Presidential running mate, proportional representation, the appointment of ministers from outside parliament and others.
The other contentious issue is the Christian nation clause. During last year’s campaigns, it was a big issue. In the draft, the declaration has been maintained in the preamble as follows:

“We the people of Zambia in exercise of our constituent power, acknowledge the supremacy of God Almighty, declare the republic a Christian nation but uphold the right of every person to enjoy that person’s freedom of conscience or religion.”

This is an article that many Christian groups had fought to maintain since its inception in the republican constitution in 1996.

In Part IV, the draft constitution has provided the opportunity of dual citizenship, an issue which most of our Zambian brothers and sisters in the diaspora have been crying for. The provision clearly states that if a Zambian citizen acquires another nationality, their Zambian citizenship will stil be maintained and cannot be revoked unless the concerned person does so.
Another provision is the Citizenship Board of Zambia which will determine issues to do with nationality. I guess this is the right body which will be determining aspiring candidates’ eligibility to office as happened last year when President Rupiah Banda’s candidature for presidency was questioned on allegations that his father was a foreigner.
Part V of the draft broadens the Bill of Rights and gives various sectors of society rights they need to enjoy such as education, health, sanitation and housing. Of particular interest to me is the inclusion of Economic, Social and Cultural rights. Those who follow Zambian politics will recall that during the existence of the ill fated PF-UPND Pact, the UPND had argued with the PF on these rights and UPND had put them as a benchmark for negotiations towards a single presidential candidate.
Of all the provisions in the draft constitution, those contained in Part VI are dear to my heart. These are articles to do with the electoral system. This part includes some of the most progressive articles which most Zambians have been yearning to have for decades. These include the 50 plus one provision for election of a President, Vice President running mate provision, last Thursday of September as date for General Elections every after five years and proportional representation in parliament. Further, the draft proposes a special vote during general elections for Zambians abroad, defence and security personell and other special people in society like journalists and monitors who are deployed in other areas other than their constituencies were they are registered as voters.
In this same part of the draft, those who lost as MPs in the immediate past elections are not allowed to take office as Ministers or Permanent Secretaries. On the installation of the president elect, more flexibility is given in light of petitions or other problems as opposed to the “within 24 hours” system employed at the moment.
On the executive, Part VII has brought in a tradition that is practiced in countries such as the USA which I see to be very progressive: the appointment of Ministers from outside Parliament. For me this will help the country to have well trained and specialised technocrats to run ministries as opposed to the current system were ministers are deployed irrespective of their credentials and lack of it. In this draft constitution, the Grade 12 requirement for a presidential candidate has been maintained a s well as the provision to remove the immunity of a president if suspected of having abused his/her office.
On electoral petitions, the Constitutional Court has been proposed so that it can hear and judge the submissions. This will help reduce conflict of interest in that the Chief Justice, who used to be the Returning Officer of the general elections, used to receive these electoral petitions when they were filed in the Supreme Court.
Article 88 provides a new concept in Zambian politics: the Political Parties Fund. This is a fund which, in my thinking, will pay a special amount of money to all political parties represented in parliament. However, all parties will be subject to audits on an annual basis on the utilization of party funds. This regulation will also help reduce excess expenditure and mortgaging of the country by those sourcing funds from outside the country.
According to the draft constitution, Ministers will be appointed from outside parliament from among people who are eligible to be elected as MPs and these will number not more than 21. Permanent Secretaries will be appointed from among ruling party MPs and these will only be 11. This will mean that as controlling officers, Permanent Secretaries (MPs) will be under non politicians in the Ministries as Ministers will be chosen from outside Manda Hill.
Parliament itself will have 200 elected MPs plus the Speaker and Deputy Speaker. This will be an increase from the current 150 elected MPs which will mean creation of new constituencies and more expenditure at Manda Hill (the other name for the Zambian Parliament).

This first draft constitution contains very good articles but it also has deficiencies. For example, it does not allow an independent candidate to run for President. This is an infringement of rights as many like minded Zambians who would want to aspire for Plot One are not aligned to political parties will not be able to exercise their democratic right. During last year’s General Elections, the European Union and the Electoral Institute of Southern Africa both recommended separately that Zambia should allow independent minded Zambians to aspire for the highest office in the land. 
Secondly, the President will still has excessive powers. These include the appointment of members of the Electoral Commission of Zambia, an issue which many have been describing as unfair. The Technical Committee should have found an independent way of choosing commissioners.
Thirdly, Part VII provides for the President’s immunity and its removal incase of suspected misconduct during the head of state’s tenure of office. However, it does not give a provision for the re-instatement of that immunity after one is tried and the legal process is concluded.

In its current form, the first draft constitution is progressive, it appeals to most people’s aspiration despite a few shortcomings. Therefore, stakeholders who will take part in conventions, should ensure that all progressive clauses are maintained so that a constitution we all want can be enacted into law and will “stand a test of time.