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Sunday, 1 August 2010

Constitution 2010 : Consultation Response (Ruth Henson)

A response to the National Constitutional Conference on the new Draft Constitution. This from Ruth Henson (Martindale Farm, Livingstone). The first submission I have found myself nodding along - 99%.  I naturally share the very valid point on age being 30 years old myself - I found myself discriminated by the NCC! Please keep copying us in to help you keep a public record of your response ( - other responses can be found at our new Draft Constitution 2010 page:

Here are my comments on the draft constitution:

Declaration of a Christian nation conflicts with numerous other sections. If it is retained we should do away with the death penalty, army, air-force and intelligence service. Freedom of religion would also be compromised.

Section on citizenship is not clear as to who has to renounce other citizenship. Is it everyone who has a right to another or only those who have applied for Zambian citizenship? What happens to people who have a right to another citizenship but have not claimed it or renounced it? Will they be assumed to be foreigners or Zambians? (This affects a very large number of people.)

Exceptions to discrimination section are too vague. What is the point of banning discrimination and then allowing it under numerous circumstances?

Legal age for marriage is 18? This is not going to be popular in rural areas where it is hard enough to enforce at 16.

There is far too much detail in the constitution most of which should be in the laws not in the constitution. The constitution should have the basic principles and leave the details to the laws.

50% plus one for presidential elections must be retained.

Specifying the date of the election is good.

Presidential qualifications are unnecessary. Let the voters choose who they want. Let the requirements only be nationality. Beyond that let the voters choose. If a voter believes a 34yr old who did not go to university is the best choice, let him vote for that person. Too many qualifications is robbing the voters of their right to choose the  person they think is best.

Presidential immunity should automatically end as soon as the President leaves office.

Too much power still resides with the president.

The constitution should not specify number of deputy ministers. There should ideally be none. If ministers were chosen from outside parliament it would be better.

There is not nearly enough decentralization. Until both power and money are much closer to the people we will not see meaningful change for the better. This should apply to all records as well. Land records, birth and citizenship records etc. Nothing should require a citizen to make a trip to Lusaka.

The NCC should have either adopted the Mungomba draft as it is, or given enough time for people to go through it properly. 40 days is too short but the job had already been done by the Mungomba draft and would not have needed doing again if the draft was followed unchanged.


  1. Ruth Henson's submission is excellent, short and to the point. I agree with it entirely.

  2. There is far too much detail in the constitution most of which should be in the laws not in the constitution. The constitution should have the basic principles and leave the details to the laws.

    I would say they are the wrong details. They spell out who can marry whom, but leave the independence of local government and the civil service up to parliament.

    The Constitution should spell out the separation of powers, the independence of the civil service, parastatals, the judiciary and the press.

    There is not nearly enough decentralization. Until both power and money are much closer to the people we will not see meaningful change for the better. This should apply to all records as well. Land records, birth and citizenship records etc. Nothing should require a citizen to make a trip to Lusaka.

    This is why I am in favour of handing 50% of revenues to local government, and making them responsible for education, healthcare, security, utilities and administration. Administrative issues - licenses, marriage, birth and death records, should all be dealt with either at local council level, or should be able to be picked up at the local council office.

    So I agree, nothing should require a citizen to make a trip to Lusaka. This is I think also an attitude, that citizens are not entitled to services or convenience unless they are rich. The same when listening to Zambia Blogtalkradio, a minister cheekily suggested that Zambians in the diaspora should get on a plane and fly to Zambia if they wanted to vote. It is an attitude by government officials that they are not responsible for making things easier for the population.

    Also, while listening to ZBTR, another minister talking about the NCC constitution, insisted about decentralization "Oh, we've taken care of that", even though they did no such thing.

  3. An area which I don't fully share with Ruth relates to the Christian declaration clause.

    I think whether "Declaration of a Christian nation conflicts with numerous other sections" largely depends on how one understands the declaration.

    Similarly, the extent to which "Freedom of religion would also be compromised" depends on the same.

  4. I am against associating religion with government, laws and politics. In a continent where incidents of xenophobia, racism, tribalism, "instant justice", homophobia, witchhunting, etc. occur, there will be those who justify religion as a reason for their actions, even though other members of the religion do not. The best system in my opinion is secularism and the golden rule i.e. "to do unto others as one would wish them to do unto you".

    By the way, according to this source, 25% to 50% of Zambians are not Christians:

  5. Kafue 001;
    You are right about that report. Actually the Zambian govt in this year's 2010 Zambia Development Agency's 'Invest in Zambia' promotional booklet complete with President Banda's foreword acknowledges that 24% to 49% of Zambians are either Moslems or Hindus. Another 1% are alleged to practice traditional beliefs. I do not want to speak to the accuracy of these figures. However it is ironic that Zambian political leaders can shout about Zambia being a christian nation when their own official data contradicts their assertions.

  6. 1% ?


    The data source is clearly corrupted!

    Percentages in Zambia don't make sense because the overlaps are huge between traditionalists and the Christian faith.

    I think a 90% Christianity seems about right or just above that.

    The reason why government use those higher figures is because it wants to promote a more diverse Zambia. If you want Indian or Middle East investors it clearly makes sense to quote 24% - 49% as Muslim or Indian! A clearly mythical figure.

    With regards to Kafue point about SECULARISM. I think we need to recognise that declaring a secular society is a religious statement. The largest religion in the world is PAGANISM. We need to move away from this intellectual unsustainable position that secularism is not a religion. It clearly is a form of religion because it espouses a certain world view. That is all religions are "world views".

    That is not to say I think Zambia should be declared a Christian religion. My view is that we need to have a better understanding of what the declaration actually means. What does it mean and what doesn't it mean. I think this is where the NCC again fails. Through out they declare things without explaining them.

    But to suggest that we should have a secular society instead of the declaration is equally not sound unless you explain why Zambia needs to hold onto such a secular religious position.

  7. I would go with the Wikipedia definition of secularism:

    "Secularism is the concept that government or other entities should exist separately from religion and/or religious beliefs.
    In one sense, secularism may assert the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, and the right to freedom from governmental imposition of religion upon the people within a state that is neutral on matters of belief. (See also Separation of church and state and Laïcité.) In another sense, it refers to the view that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be based on evidence and fact unbiased by religious influence.[1] (See also public reason.)"

    Since historical times, there has been religious persecution for different reasons, hence I would advocate secularism for government / laws / politics. See examples of religious persecution here in Wikipedia:

  8. That is what we call an "incorrect appeal to authority". One can't merely pick a definition and accept it. They must be able to justify it. As it turns out Wikipedia is the last place I would go for as a preliminary source.

    Since you prefer to QUOTE - the definition I was using is actually in line with the New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics put together by renowned philosophers and theologians across the world - it states :

    "A secular state is a society that dispenses with religion and the supernatural. It can be seen either in a descriptive sense or a militant world view.

    As a descriptive term, it portrays a society whose focus is this world rather than other-worldly. Values, meanings, concerns, morals and all aspects of community life are seen in terms of the material world as understood by contemporary science. Nothing is based on belief in God or any life other than this one. Most western nations are said to be secular in this sense, even though the large majority of their populations would claim to have religious beliefs. In France, for example, whose constitution is secular, over 80% of the population claim to be religious, but the impact of their beliefs on French life as a whole is very small.

    Seen as a militant world-view, a secular state is a state that is geared towards destroying the influence of religion in all areas of public life. Highly militant secular states tend to be dominated by atheistic thinkers who clearly have a vision of a religion free society, and work towards abolishing religion forcibly. Militant secular states would accept that religion can be a private belief and way of life. What they cannot accept is that it should have any impact on society, politics, moral, education or any other aspects of public life. All should be based on the secular world view rather than any religious world view. The rationale given for this approach is that secularism is based on reason and science while religious world view is based on ignorance on ignorance and superstition. Building society on reason and science, it is argued, will make society more secure, happy, peaceful, strong or in others more developed. This is contrasted to societies built on religious beliefs, which are necessary superstitious intolerant and divisive.

    The simple point I am making, is that to assert “secularism” is not a neutral proposition. As we the quote above denotes, a secular position is not a “neutral” position. To say you believe in a secular state with secular values and identity is simply to acknowledge that you have a way of life that you follow – and therefore in its own way, a form of religious worship. By declaring itself a secular state, Zambia would therefore making a positive assertion about its beliefs and identity, not a neutral one. We must acknowledge that both secular and Christian declarations are non-neutral propositions.

    I underline again that does not mean it has to be declared a Christian state. I am merely point out that intellectual consistency demands we acknowledge that argument.

  9. I took the declaration to mean we should govern by Christian principles. Christian principles however can be lived by but not legislated for. If we take it seriously we could not have the death penalty or the army because killing is wrong. Everybody who has two shirts would give one to someone who has none. We would not need most of the court system, and so on.
    We would see more justice in terms of equality of access to education, health care etc. It would be great if everybody followed it but whenever a government uses religion to govern it is exploited for selfish ends and brings the religion a bad name. Look at the man who introduced this in the constitution and was then charged with theft from the public coffers!

  10. Although someone could argue that declarations nearly always are aspirational. In short current imperfections may well underline the need for the declaration rather than the other way round.

    I don't necessarily share that reasoning, but it is a valid argument nevertheless.


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