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Thursday, 26 May 2011

Functions of the Republican President (Guest Blog)

In a news article entitled “RB Should Be Left to Decide Election Date,” which appeared in the Lusaka Times of 12th May 2011, comrade Ronnie Shikapwasha was quoted as having said that there was nothing wrong with President Rupiah Banda’s delay in announcing the polling date, and that he should be left alone to decide as the President has every right to do so. He was further quoted as having said that those calling for early polls are doing it out of ignorance and are not following the constitution as it states that the country’s leader has the power to announce the election date at whatever time he feels the nation is ready.

Well, I have thus far combed through the 1996 Republican constitution for an Article or Clause which gives President Banda the “constitutional right” to decide on, and announce, the date for the general elections, but have not found any!

For the benefit of those who do not have time to skim through the 1996 Republican constitution, here is a summary of the functions of the Republican president which are stipulated in the constitution:

Article 29(1): The President may, in consultation with Cabinet, at any time, by Proclamation published in the Gazette, declare war.

Article 30(1): The President may, in consultation with Cabinet, at any time, by Proclamation published in the Gazette, declare a State of emergency.

Article 33(1): The President is the Head of State and of the Government, and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Force. (2) The executive power of the Republic of Zambia vests in the President and, subject to the other provisions of this Constitution, shall be exercised by him or her either directly or through officers subordinate to him or her.

Article 44(1): As the Head of the State, the President shall perform with dignity and leadership all acts necessary or expedient for, or reasonably incidental to, the discharge of the executive functions of government subject to the overriding terms of this Constitution and the Laws of Zambia which he or she is constitutionally obliged to protect, administer and execute.

Article 44(2): Without prejudice to the generality of clause (1), the President shall preside over meetings of the Cabinet and shall have the power, subject to this Constitution to --

(a) Dissolve the National Assembly as provided in Article 88;
(b) Accredit, receive and recognize ambassadors, and to appoint ambassadors, plenipotentiaries, diplomatic representatives and consuls;
(c) Pardon or reprieve offenders, either unconditionally or subject to such conditions as he may consider fit;
(d) Negotiate and sign international agreements and to delegate the power to do so;
(e) Establish and dissolve such Government Ministries and Departments subject to the approval of the National Assembly;
(f) Confer such honors as he considers appropriate on citizens, residents and friends of Zambia in consultation with interested and relevant persons and institutions; and
(g) Appoint such persons as are required by this Constitution or any other law to be appointed by him or her.

Article 44(3): Subject to the provisions of this Constitution dealing with assent to laws passed by Parliament and the promulgation and publication of such laws in the Gazette, the President shall have power to --

(a) Sign and promulgate any proclamation which by law he or she is entitled to proclaim as President; and
(b) Initiate, in so far as he or she considers it necessary and expedient, laws for submission and consideration by the National Assembly.

Article 45(2): The Vice-President shall be appointed by the President from among the members of the National Assembly.

Article 46(1): There shall be such Ministers as may be appointed by the President.

Article 47(1): The President may appoint such Deputy Ministers as he or she may consider necessary to assist Ministers in the performance of their functions and to exercise or perform on behalf of Ministers such of the Ministers’ functions as the President may authorize in that behalf.

Article 53(1): There shall be a Secretary to the Cabinet whose office shall be a public office and who shall, subject to ratification by the National Assembly, be appointed by the President.

Article 54(1): There shall be an Attorney-General of the Republic who shall, subject to ratification by the National Assembly, be appointed by the President.

Article 55(1): There shall be a Solicitor-General of the Republic whose office shall be a public office and who shall, subject to ratification by the National Assembly, be appointed by the President.

Article 56(1): There shall be a Director of Public Prosecutions and who shall, subject to ratification by the National Assembly, be appointed by the President.

Article 68(1): The President may, at any time after a general election to the National Assembly and before the National Assembly is next dissolved, appoint such number of persons as he or she considers necessary to enhance the representation of the National Assembly as regards special interests or skills, to be nominated members of the National Assembly, so, however, that there are not more than eight such members at any one time.

Article 88(3): The President may at any time summon a meeting of the National Assembly.

Article 90(1): There shall be an Investigator-General of the Republic who shall be appointed by the President in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission and shall be the Chairman of the Commission for Investigations.

Article 95(1): The puisne judges shall, subject to ratification by the National Assembly, be appointed by the President on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission. (2) The Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Industrial Relations Court shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission.

Article 121(1): There shall be an Auditor-General for the Republic whose office shall be a public office and who shall, subject to ratification by the National Assembly, be appointed by the President.

There are, of course, unwritten presidential functions, and functions prescribed in subsidiary pieces of legislation, which the Republican president is expected to perform. But with respect to the decision to set and announce the date for tripartite elections, there is a need for a constitutional proviso providing for a specific day or date for holding general elections, as recommended by the National Constitutional Conference (NCC).

In the absence of such a proviso, the setting and announcement of the date for holding general elections should have been the duty of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), in consultation with an ensemble of leaders of all duly registered political parties.

I do not understand the logic behind the setting and announcement of the date for holding general elections by the Republican president, particularly one whose political party is going to field candidates in the same elections, and one who is presumably going to be a presidential candidate!

The 2nd Republic (between 1972 and 1991) is long gone, when all elective political positions were contested on the UNIP ticket, and when it probably made sense for the Republican president to decide on, and announce, the date for holding general elections. It is high time we shook off some of these old tendencies!

There is also a need for the President to delegate more of his unwritten and legally established functions so that his Ministers can take some of his less-important trips and tasks. As Management gurus would profess, good leaders attain their stipulated goals through the efforts of their subordinates. As such, a leader who spends much of his or her time performing tasks which subordinates are capable of performing is likely to be less effective in discharging his or her duties.

I am often intrigued by what the Holy Bible teaches us on the issue of delegation in Exodus 18:14-22, in which Jethro advised his son-in-law, Moses, as follows:

“Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening? …. You will surely wear out … select out of all the able men … [and] place these over them, as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.”

I, of course, prepare this piece of advice knowing very well that “you can never teach an old dog new tricks,” so to speak.

But delegation of part of one’s work to subordinates can be an effective way of ensuring that work is not postponed until a future time. Also, it can enable a leader to identify effective and resourceful subordinates for promotion and/or retention.

The process of delegation involves four basic steps: (a) determining the tasks that can be delegated without giving up one’s responsibility, and which a given subordinate is capable of accomplishing; (b) assigning the tasks to the subordinate; (c) giving the subordinate the necessary authority and support for accomplishing the tasks; and (d) checking periodically on the progress being made by the subordinate.

And to maintain the independence of institutions like the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC), and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, appointments of directors or chairpersons to run such institutions should preferably be made by independent commissions without the involvement of the Executive branch of the government.

Also, the independence of Parliament could be partly ensured if the Republican president were to constitute his or her Cabinet from the general public rather than from elected or nominated Members of Parliament.

My fellow Zambians, the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) assumed the reins of power nearly 20 years ago, but the socio-economic conditions facing the majority of citizens have continued to worsen during the 3rd Republic the party has been in power. The healthcare system, for example, cannot meet the basic needs of the majority of citizens; tens of thousands of Grade 7 and Grade 9 students have continued to be spilled onto the streets every year; and so many Zambians have no access to clean water and electricity.

Moreover, a critical shortage of decent public housing has compelled so many of our fellow citizens to live in shanty townships nationwide, public infrastructure and services are still deficient, poverty has reached alarming levels, civil servants are still not adequately compensated for their services, and a lot of civil service retirees cannot get their hard-earned benefits.

Besides, taxes and interest rates are still very high, public news outlets have continued to glorify inept government leaders and to demonize and stigmatize opposition political parties and their leaders, and, among many other socio-economic ills, crime and unemployment are still widespread.

Voters who have the interest of our beloved country and its people at heart, therefore, will need to guard themselves against giving the MMD another term of office later this year. There is really nothing meaningful which the party can do over the next 5 years that will address the backlog of unfulfilled promises.

Henry Kyambalesa
The guest author is the Founder and President of the Agenda for Change (AfC) party.

Zambian Economist encourages guest contributions from leading Zambian thinkers on matters relevant to national development. The purpose of these notes is to stimulate discussion and ensure logic and impartial critique plays a leading role in shaping public debate. See the special observers page for more information.

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