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Sunday, 5 July 2009

Chiefs and Politics : Towards Free Participation?

For those who are tracking our blog specials on Traditional Authorities and Development. The latest offering Chiefs and Politics - Towards Free Participation? is now up on the House of Chiefs.

As well as serving the purposes of our blog specials, it should also be seen as a formal response to Henry Kyambalesa's Chiefs as Members of Parliament (Guest Blog) , although HK was addressing a somewhat different question. Our latest post discusses the principle of allowing chiefs to compete for political office, HK rightly focused on the NCC's amendment which ignores competition but allows the President to nominate chiefs to parliament.

Health warning :

The latest offering is on the long side. Regular readers of this series will know that we have abandoned the original aim for short posts :) These are important issues where brief does not do justice! Any comments on the post should be left on the House of Chiefs. I'll now sit very patiently to see who will manage to read the whole post!!


  1. Much of this discourse seems to treat chiefs as individuals rather than institutions. We should think of chieftains as institutions in the same way we think about governmental and non-governmental institutions in Zambian society. It would, therefore, be absurd for individuals who preside over such institutions to drag their institutions to compete for parliamentary, mayoral or any other elective political positions.

    Some individuals have accepted to become chiefs leaving their positions as academics, chief executive officers, civic leaders, or politicians. And they have the freedom to abdicate their positions as chiefs in order to exercise their individual right to compete for elective office. It is the kind of choice individual members of a clan, tribe or ethnic group have to make: to serve one’s people as chief or to contest a parliamentary seat, for example, and serve the people as a Member of Parliament.

    The 1996 Republican constitution stipulates the following regarding the Institution of Chief:

    Article 128:
    The following concepts and principles shall apply to Chiefs:

    (a) The Institution of Chief shall be a corporation sole with perpetual succession and with capacity to sue and be sued and to hold assets or properties in trust for itself and the people concerned;

    (b) Nothing in paragraph (a) shall be taken to prohibit a Chief from holding any asset or property acquired in a personal capacity; and

    (c) A traditional leader or culture shall enjoy such privileges and benefits as may be conferred by the Government and the local Government or as the leader may be entitled to under culture, custom and tradition.

    Article 129:
    A person shall not, while remaining a Chief, join or participate in partisan politics.

    The Draft Constitution prepared by the Mung’omba Constitutional Review Commission, however, provides for chiefs’ participation in politics in Article 260 (1) A chief may: (a) seek and hold any public office; or (b) participate in political activities and stand for any elective public office.

    By the way, would "James Kiswapako" be expected to use his names or the title of Chief Kapijimpanga, for example, over which he would preside if chieftains were to be allowed to contest elective political positions? This is one of the many hypothetical questions which members of the Mung’omba Constitutional Review Commission needed to answer.

  2. Kyambalesa,

    I have left my response to your comments at the House of Chiefs.


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