Draft constitution calls to limit MPs to two terms

Zambian Parliament

THE “holiday” for those that have been vying for Parliament in order to gain themselves a full-time life time job could come to an end if recommendations made to the on-going provincial conferences are effected.

The calls to stop what some analysts have in the past called the “gravy-train” syndrome have been initiated by Southern and Eastern provinces, which want to see article 139 of the draft constitution amended to limit the time a member of Parliament can be in office to two five-year terms only.
Delegates to the Provincial Constitution Conference resolved to include clause seven to stop the current situation where being a member of Parliament is widely regarded as a source of “livelihood” and “income” rather than a service to the people.
The delegates also felt limiting the terms of office for MPs to two will enhance the country’s democracy further as it will allow more people to participate in national governance at parliamentary level and bring about diversity.
When one of the groups tabled the proposal for amendment, some delegates led by Kalomo member of Parliament Request Muntanga opposed it saying it would be undemocratic and may limit people’s choices even though this is the current practice for Zambian Presidents since the return to multi-party politics in 1991.
Mr Muntanga argued that it was up to the people in each constituency to decide whether they no longer wanted to be represented by the same person.
“This amendment will be undemocratic. A member of Parliament must continue as long as the people want him or her. Why should we decide on behalf of the people?” Mr Muntanga, who has been in Parliament for while, said.
But several delegates maintained that MPs should not turn politics into a career and hinder other people from becoming house members.
During debate on the matter the delegates felt that it was unfair to limit the state President to two terms while giving MPs an unlimited shelf life.
Convention chairperson Solomon Muzyamba put the matter to a vote and those in favour of the two-term limit carried the day.
In Eastern Province, delegates adopted the closed proportional representation (PR) system which will bar independent candidates from running for National Assembly.
The PR system is also seen as a way of eliminating unnecessary by-elections. This was after the working group reported to the plenary session which comprised 200 delegates on Friday in Chipata.
The working group, which was tasked to look at Part IV of the draft constitution which talks about electoral system, reported that in order to avoid by-elections, said a candidate who has resigned should not be allowed to re-contest polls on any party ticket for the next five years.
Annel Silungwe, the chairman of Technical Committee Drafting the Zambian Constitution, said since the convention has adopted the closed PR system, Article 81 which talks about a losing candidate not to be eligible for certain appointments becomes retardant.
Other articles that were adopted included the appointment of ministers from outside Parliament.
And the convention had resolved that instead of the vice-president to be the leader of the House in Parliament, the proposed parliamentary secretaries should take over this responsibility while the tenure of MPs should be restricted to two five-year terms.
And delegates at the Lusaka convention adopted the amended Article 99 to allow a running mate to automatically vie for office in the event that the presidential candidate dies.
Article 99 clause (7) on election of president provides for the running mate to take the place of the presidential candidate who has died or cannot stand for a second round of election.
After the amendment was adopted by Lusaka Province yesterday, the clause now reads “If a presidential candidate who has qualified for a second ballot dies or is disqualified for any reason under this Constitution or any other law from standing for election to the office of president before taking of the second ballot, the running mate to that candidate who has died takes his/her place and chooses his/her running mate.
Delegates were of the view that the running mate will enhance stability and democracy by not getting the next highest that may have had very low votes.
Debating part seven Article 97 of first draft constitution containing the executive powers of the president, the youngest delegate at the convention, representing Kabulonga Boys High School, Tyson Mwanza, proposed that the current minimum qualification for a presidential candidate of a grade 12 certificate was inadequate.
Mr Mwanza based his argument on the fact that because the minimum age for one to qualify as a presidential candidate has been retained at 35 years, it was necessary for the candidate to have a minimum of tertiary education.
“It is expected that if someone completes their high school at the age of 18 years, what will he or she have been doing between then and the age of 35 years, when they become eligible to contest as a presidential candidate? This is why the minimum qualification should be upwardly adjusted,” he argued.