Friday, January 4, 2008

Mwanawasa - King or President?

Mwanawasa’s recent statement regarding Prof Clive Chirwa’s intention, to contest the MMD presidency are a sad reflection of the infancy of democratic governance in Zambia.

"Now, let me give a timely warning to people who have been outside. They have been outside living in a foreign environment. They come back to the country and think that we are all foolish; we are all incapable of providing leadership and now they are God sent people,". Mwanawasa.

Does a Zambian citizen lose the rights and privileges of the constitution just because one lives abroad for a period of time?

Might this, also be a symptom of a culture or perhaps politicians, still evolving from the traditional administrative structure of chiefs to the constitutional structure of political leadership elected by universal suffrage.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with an incumbent President endorsing a preferred successor, however in the Zambian scenario, it is the personal ownership of the Presidency that Mwanawasa and Chiluba before seem to claim and enforce that sparks grave concern.
This suck up to me, kneel before me, acknowledge my slightest gesture or movement and by all means ask my permission mentality, is what I as Prof Chirwa find unpalatable.
This mindset sadly, also underscores the reason Mwanawasa and others before him seem to play games with the constitution review process.
What will become of King Mwanawasa’s ego and need for patronage, if the Zambian constitution limits the overreaching powers of the current presidency?

Of course I do not advocate disrespect of the President; on the contrary I believe the office of President is owed no more respect than prescribed by the Zambian constitution.
The Zambian people through several constitution review commissions have stated the need to reduce the executive authority of the president. We need to end the reign of this era, in which a President’s personal views or preference are deemed supreme to the constitution, such that grown men like George Mpombo and Tentamashima are so willing to sacrifice their dignity to the point of kneel or die.

Our national constitution must prescribe and guarantee,

i) Equal standing of all Zambians everywhere - men and women in the bill of rights.

ii) Appropriate due authority and autonomy to key institutions like the electoral commission.

iii) And most importantly prescribe the limit of presidential authority.

I pray that the NCC currently engaged in the review of our constitution will adopt these key recommendations- perhaps then we can see an end to the marginalization of the electorate especially women and Zambian citizens abroad, ineffective institutions and the abuse of presidential authority!