Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Draft constitution drops parentage clause

Draft constitution drops parentage clause
By Ernest Chanda and Abigail Sitenge
Wed 02 May 2012, 09:00 CAT

THE controversial parentage clause has been removed from the Draft Constitution compiled by the Technical Committee tasked to come up with the document. And the Committee has maintained the clause on the declaration of Zambia as a Christian Nation.

Under the current Constitution, a presidential candidate should, among other qualifications, be one born of parents who are both Zambians by birth or descent.

The clause, which was introduced in 1996 by the Frederick Chiluba administration to stop Dr Kenneth Kaunda from re-contesting the presidency in that year's election, has since existed under serious public criticism and condemnation.

According to the first Draft Constitution launched in Lusaka yesterday by Committee chairperson justice Annel Silungwe, the parentage clause has been completely removed and replaced by other qualifications for those aspiring for the country's presidency.

One of the newly-introduced qualifications is that the presidential candidate must be one who; "has paid that person's taxes or has made arrangements, satisfactory to the appropriate tax authority, for the payment of the taxes."

And the Committee has incorporated most of the contentious clauses demanded by the public, which the MMD regime rejected.

Among the popular clauses reintroduced is the election of a president through a popular vote, and the introduction of an elected vice-president.

Article 99 (3) of the Draft Constitution states that: "A presidential candidate shall be duly elected if the candidate receives not less than fifty per cent plus one vote of the valid votes cast."

This means that if none of the presidential candidates commands a majority vote after all the votes have been counted, the top two candidates will go for a re-run, until one of them meets the fifty per cent plus one threshold under the current Constitution, a presidential candidate is declared winner by a simple majority vote.

The draft document further states that the president-elect can only be sworn in two weeks after being declared winner.

Article 102 (2) states that "The president-elect shall be sworn into office on the Tuesday following - (a) the fourteenth day after the date of the declaration of the election results, if no petition has been filed under

Article 101(2) and in accordance with Article 101(3); or (b) the seventh day following the date on which the court declares the election to be valid, if a petition has been filed under Article 101 (2)."

The Draft Constitution has also provided for an elected vice-president, who shall also automatically assume office in the event that the president died, got impeached or was unable to hold office due to other constitutional reasons.

Article 107 (1) of the draft constitution states that: "There shall be a vice-president for the Republic who shall be elected as a running mate to a presidential candidate".

The Committee has also maintained the dual citizenship clause in its draft constitution.

The technical committee has also provided for automatic Zambian citizenship of an adopted foreign child.

Articles 17 and 18 provide as follows: "17. A child who is not a citizen and who is adopted by a citizen shall be a citizen on the date of the adoption. 18. (1) A citizen shall not lose citizenship by acquiring the citizenship of another country."

Other popular clauses maintained are the introduction of a constitutional court, economic and social rights clause which was first rejected by the National Constitutional Conference but later adopted after public condemnation; and the election of cabinet ministers from outside the National assembly.

The committee has further provided for 200 elected members of parliament, as opposed to the current 150.

The technical committee has also provided for a proportional representation on the election of members of parliament.

The committee has also restricted the number of cabinet ministers to 21.

Article 120 (1) of the draft constitution states that: "The

President shall appoint not more than twenty-one persons as ministers who are qualified to be nominated as members of parliament. (2) The President shall appoint Ministers from persons who are not Members of Parliament."

And launching the document, justice Silungwe urged Zambians not to feel restrained from reacting in the manner they wanted.

"I wish to emphasise that up until formally adopted, the technical committee's work can only result in drafts because they are to be discussed and endorsed by the people. What our draft says can be accepted, rejected or varied by the people before coming up with the final product," said justice Silungwe. "So, in reading the first draft constitution, do not feel bound, constrained or ordered to think and react in any particular manner. I would like to stress that the document is but a draft and it is for this reason that I am a launching a consultative process and not a Constitution."

And the committee has maintained the Christian Nation declaration in the Preamble to the draft constitution.

The Preamble starts with the affirmation that: "We, the people of Zambia, in exercise of our consituent 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..."

The draft constitution would be circulated to the public through print and in electronic form, and would be translated in all the seven major local languages.

The document, which is also available on the newly-launched technical committee website: (external link), is expected to be widely debated by the public before the second and final drafts are released.

After the launch of the first draft constitution, it is planned that it will be discussed at community, district, sector group conventions and provincial levels where each province will hold a convention.

Thereafter, the committee will reconvene to consider comments made by the public and prepare a second draft constitution, which would be validated by the national convention.

The final draft constitution would then be released and submitted simultaneously to President Michael Sata and to the public.



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