Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Delegates want diplomats to be ratified by Parliament
By Ernest Chanda and Roy Habaalu
Wed 17 Apr. 2013, 14:01 CAT

DELEGATES at the national convention have introduced and adopted a clause that requires diplomatic appointees to be ratified by the National Assembly.

And the delegates have rejected a proposal to include the minimum of a university degree among the qualifications of a presidential candidate.

When considering an article that talks about the executive functions of a president, the delegates, through a thematic group on Executive and Legislature, added a clause that the National Assembly ratifies diplomatic appointments.

Article 90 (2) states that: "Without limiting clause (1) and the other provisions of this Constitution, the President shall - (b) accredit and appoint ambassadors, high commissioners, plenipotentiaries, diplomatic representatives and consuls."

But the group presented to the convention a proposal that: "Ambassadors, High Commissioners, plenipotentiaries are subject to National Assembly ratification."

Supporting the proposal, Keembe MMD member of parliament Lieutenant General Ronnie Shikapwasha said he had difficulties coordinating with some diplomats when he served as foreign affairs minister.

"As minister I went round visiting many of the ambassadors and many of those that were appointed without Parliament ratification; and there were many questions that I found, how and why some of them were appointed. And therefore it is important that there's a second player that ratifies ambassadors before they go into service. We are not taking away the powers of the president to appoint. No! We are saying when the president appoints let the men be ratified by Parliament in order to ensure that we have a diplomatic cadre of professionals that represent Zambia," said Lt Gen Shikapwasha. "As minister of foreign affairs then, I had many difficulties to move the policy of changing Zambia from that of freedom fighting policy and independence of Southern Africa to the economic policy for some ambassadors to respond."

Supporting the same proposal, former Secretary to the Cabinet Sketchley Sachika said sometimes presidents appointed their girlfriends into foreign service.

But immediate former foreign affairs minister Kabinga Pande disagreed with the two delegates.

"You cannot take away the powers from the president. That (diplomat) is a direct representative of the president. He (president) must have direct power to recall an ambassador who is not performing. And if we allow this clause, Zambia will be the only country to do that," debated Pande.

Bishop John Mambo also argued that ambassadors were not subject to Parliament ratification anywhere in the world, except the United States.

And the convention rejected the degree clause that was introduced outside the draft constitution as one of qualifications of a presidential candidate.

Many delegates felt that there were few people with access to university education.

And the convention rejected a proposal in the draft constitution that the president should consult Parliament before declaring war.
Many delegates said time was a serious factor in war; that by the time the president was consulting Parliament, the nation, including Parliament, would have been bombed.

The delegates resolved that the president be given room to declare war without Parliament ratification.

Meanwhile, Fr Richard Luonde says Zambians would for the first time have a constitution on their own because the government is not interfering in the process.

Fr Luonde said the PF had shown that it was committed to a people-driven constitution by not imposing it desires on delegates drafting the constitution.

"Those who are saying the process would fail will be disappointed because Zambians would have been given what they wanted in the constitution; they will be rewarded at the end," Fr Luonde said.

He said delegates are allowed to debate freely unlike during the Nation Constitutional Conference that never allowed contentious articles to be subjected to a vote.

"MMD imposed things that suited them and never allowed the wishes of the people to prevail but now delegates are debating freely and I hope Zambians would support the outcome of the final product," Fr Luonde.

Officially opening the National Convention, President Michael Sata said he was determined to facilitate a people-driven constitution and urged delegates to consider the assignment a call to national duty.

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