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CHIBUMBA (WALL): LEVY LEGACY

By Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika

It was our earnest desire that President Mwanawasa may have recovered as much of his health and as fast as is possible, but this was not to be.

 

His national service has already cost him and his family too much sacrifices, and, now his death is yet another blow.  Heart-felt condolences and prayers for them to retain the fortitude that earned Levy the nickname “Cibumba.” We share in their loss, and grieve with them in mourning, as we have had to do all too often, over the years.  Long live Levy’s legacy

 

It is significance that the presidency is the first mentioned branch of government in the Constitution of Zambia. This makes it essential to have presidential continuity in the current Zambian system of governance, even the distressing lost of President Levy Mwanawasa, whose nickname likened him to a solid wall, “chibumba”.   

 

This is underscored by need for a constitutionally correct and dignified transition.  And, beyond this, it calls for even enhanced determination to continue with anti-corruption, pro-development and social inclusivity Levy legacy.  On this ground, it has been reassuring that, during President Mwanawasa’s illness, there has been calm continuity in the presidency, under the unruffled and mature hand of Vice President Rupiah Banda.  This is a good example for political party actors and citizens to follow, especially after his heartbreaking death.

 

The captain of the national team has been taken off the field, on account of fatal illness. Appropriate team spirit and national patriotism requires that remaining players should instantaneously and calmly continue with the game, under a steady and sound substitute captaincy.  In fact, under these circumstance, they are called upon demonstrate a renewed vitality to overcome the potential handicap of playing without a leading team mate.

 

Similarly, in the face of the demise of our President, political leaders and citizens should act in this fashion.  This would be a good testimony to the leadership of President Mwanawasa, because a team that is lost, in the absence of a leader, was no team in the first place.  In this regard, they should rely on the guidance of the letter of the Constitution and the spirit of national responsible, and display unity and ability to continue without disruption.

Naturally, what has happened prods us to think about need for government continuity, even while brings out compassionate concern for our fallen comrade.  We must accept that life and health could neither be predicted nor commanded our wishes as human beings.  But, we must find assurance in the fact that the State Constitution adequately provides for all circumstances, through ensuring continuity in state functions and responsibilities, including delivery of social, economic and political services. The Constitution provides for continuity of government, under all circumstances, when a substitute or replacement presidency is called for.

 

I am regrettably mindful of the toll that the leadership burden of state could have had on his health.  He has come to public leadership, not by self-promotion or intrigues, but on unsolicited requests.  The first request was for him to join the National Interim Committee, when some of us founded the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD.  The second request was ten years later, the National Executive Committee of the MMD voted his as the party’s presidential candidate.  In accepting these invitations, he has displayed exemplary servant leadership, with personal sacrifice and commonsensical good citizenship.  There has been need for more people to have been more available or availed opportunities to share and lighten this burden on his shoulders.  It is unfortunate that it has not been possible for more people to have been of more assistance, then his health could have been better shielded, and his leadership made lighter and less of a health risk.  This would have been possible through more committed and broader team sharing of political and development dreams, decisions and duties of leadership.

 

Of course, it is not comfortable to consider the possibility of serious political or health adversities where the presidency is concerned, but it is required to face even such unpleasant factors factually, responsibly and sensitively.  Issues of continuity need to be appreciated in all the three branches of government and national sectors, with the most critical issues being with regard to the Executive Branch.  The legal set up and performance of presidential functions is the most visible, and potentially the most easily re-assuring point of effecting continuity of government.  Effective and clear continuity in performance of the functions of the Office of the President is critical in establishing giving assurance that there is a credible and legitimate national leadership.

 

There are seven circumstances under which a new President is elected or substitute person is called upon to perform the function of the office of president.  These are upon completion of the normal term of office as well as in case of presidential absence from the country, dissolution of Parliament, resignation, impeachment, illness, incapacitation or demise.  The country has existing protection in the Constitution in case of need for temporal or permanent transfer of presidential and other state power and responsibilities to legitimate authorities.  Even in the case where some political actors and groupings exhibit leadership weaknesses or absence of good judgment, these state constitutional provisions can serve to render strong security of government continuity.

 

There are issues of continuity that need to be well known, appreciated and managed absolutely in all the three branches of government and national sectors, with the most critical issues being with regard to the Executive Branch.  The legal set up and performance of presidential functions is the most visible, and potentially the most easily re-assuring point of effecting continuity of government.  Effective and clear continuity in performance of the functions of the Office of the President is critical in establishing assurance that there is a credible and legitimate national leadership.

A remedy is provided for in Article 38, for when the office of the President becomes vacant by reason of his death or resignation or by reason of his ceasing to hold office by virtue of Article 36, 37 or 88.  In these circumstances the Constitution provides for an election to the office of the President to be held within ninety days from the date of the office becoming vacant.  Whenever the office of the President becomes vacant in this way, the Vice-President shall perform the functions of the office of the President until a person elected as President assumes office.  In performing these functions before the election, the Vice-President shall not dissolve the National Assembly nor, except on the advice of the Cabinet, revoke any appointment made by the President.

 

This is different from a situation upon completion of the normal term of office, dissolution of Parliament, resignation, impeachment, illness, incapacitation or demise. Article 34, section 2, requires that a new presidential election shall take place whenever Parliament is dissolved.  Article 35 states that the normal presidential term of office shall be five years, and that a President may resign.  Article 37 provides for the impeachment of a president.  But, article 38, among other things, provides for what follows in case of the undesirable event of the demise of a President while in office, as a contingency plan.

 

There is need to ensure that continuity of Government is seen, and believed, to be adequately functioning on an earnest ongoing basis.  Now is the time when it is necessary to show strong leadership and legitimate institutions demonstrating capacity for government continuity and prove of statesmanship, on the part of political leaders, as well as professional resolve by civil servants.  Under all circumstances, the challenge is to ensure that there is continuation of a legitimate and expeditiously functioning government authority.  Zambia’s history re-assures that we, as a people, can meet this challenge.

 

Zambia’s future can benefit from having this challenge meet, but it is only possible under a leadership of men and women who are clean, clear, competent, committed, credible, courageous and compassionate.  Indeed, it would be an appropriate cap on the Levy legacy, if insist on meeting this challenge of ensuring continuity of governance and economic recovery, as we uphold the anti-corruption crusade.

Hamba kahle, mufwewetu!  Aluta Continua!

Note: Akashambatwa Mbikusita-Lewanika is co-founder of Zambias’ governing Movement for Multiparty Democracy, the revolutionary party that ousted United National Independence Party government at the time led by Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda in 1991. Before his death, President Mwanawasa had appointed Aka as he is populary known as Chairperson of the National Governing Council (NGC) to locally oversee the implementation of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).

 

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November 4, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment