By Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa
Despite the existence of a broadly known precedent of how to draft a clearly understandable document, humankind decided to deviate from this potent document in draftsmanship to murky waters of drafting constitutions that are self-contradictory, with qualifiers, nuances, equivocations and in determinations. There can be no better drafted document to use as a precedent in constitutional drafting than the Ten Commandments. “Thou Shout Not Kill”. “Thou Shout Not Commit Adultery”. “They Shout Not Bear False Witness”. There can be no debate about what each and all of these commandments say. There cannot be no Machiavellian mischief as to what is meant here. It now behooves on the person who killed or committed adultery or bore false witness to proffer a defence as to why they committed a prohibited act. Was it self-defence, or denied sex at home in case of adultery or because they honestly believed in the truth of their evidence as they understand it at the time of the happening, in case of false testimony.
Now in the case of the impugned article of the Zambian Constitution regarding third term for a sitting President, there are so many qualifyers, possibilities, allowances, equivocations and so on making such an important article subject to easy and deliberate interpretations, understandings and or misinterpretations by both Machiavellians and well-meaning people. If the Ten Commandments were used as a model, this article would simply have stated: “Any person who has been elected twice to the office of the President, shall not be eligible to be elected for the 3rd consecutive term”. End of the matter. Not even Machiavelli can manipulate this. Cicero, the presumed greatest orator of all time could not argue this out of existence either. It is so clear.
Someone can’t say I have read the constitution and I believe I can run again a third time. However, in the present constitution, reading the constitution and understanding it are two different things. The President had once said he had read the constitution on ministers remaining in office during elections and that he was right. The Constitutional Court said he was wrong. The President is thus not the best authority of the meaning of the constitutional clause pertaining to the 3rd term. There is also self-interest.
But this debate should await until the current more important issues are resolved, namely the disputed election and secondly whether the government is implementing its major electoral platforms while the legitimacy of the claim to power is being contested if any. It is so contemptuous of the Zambian people and rule of law to start talking of 2021. What happens to delivering to the people of Zambia between 2016 and 2021 instead of politicking and wasting peoples energies by diversionary tactics. As Mr. Chishimba Kambwili has correctly and eloquently, reasoned, lets deliver to the people of Zambia. As I am writing, agricultural inputs have not been delivered to many parts of Zambia. I know this because I have a maize field in eastern Monze and I am waiting for agricultural inputs and we are going into the third week of January. No government in the history of Zambia has so much neglected agricultural as this government. And agriculture can rescue this country from poverty! Gosh.
Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa teaches Criminal Law and Jurisprudence at Zambian Open University in Lusaka