Some of the participants of the meeting
Zambians living in the UK representing various interests met on Friday, 30th July 2010 at a collaborative meeting co-ordinated by UKZAMBIANS to discuss the draft constitution. Here is the final report submitted to the National Constitution Conference (NCC).
We Zambians in the Diaspora, UK/Europe wish to join other Zambians in acknowledging your efforts and commitment in the development of a new Republican constitution for Zambia.
As Zambians living abroad representing wide spectra of interest such as business, media, religion, professionals we met on Friday, 30th July 2010 to deliberate the draft constitution.
Herewith, we wish to make some few comments and suggestions in the hope that this will create an acceptable, fair and lasting constitution for all Zambians including those living abroad.
DUAL CITIZENSHIP CLAUSE
We would like to join other Zambians in the Diaspora in welcoming the introduction of Dual Citizenship Clause.
10 YEAR – CLAUSE
We observed that while the draft constitution recommends that a Presidential candidate should have been a resident of Zambia for a continuous period of 10 years immediately preceding the election, the draft constitution was silently ambiguous on the status of those who were domiciled abroad for while studying; on diplomatic duties; working in multinational corporations and international organisations; and children of parents living abroad.
We feel that being resident in Zambia for 10 consecutive years preceding any given presidential election takes away the hopes and dreams of young Zambians living abroad.
We are asking the NCC remove this discriminatory clause which serves no purpose in the development of our country. We feel that this clause was targeting certain individuals and will serve no purpose in the future development of our country.
Qualifications of Presidential Candidates (Article 108): The requirements that presidential candidates should have a bachelor’s degree as a minimum academic qualification is disturbing in a country which does not have many institutions of higher learning in that it sends most of its tertiary students outside the country, given that the minimum period of higher education from a first degree to a PHD is seven years.
We join numerous fellow Zambians including President Banda who have said that a Zambian Presidential candidate does not need a degree to become a good leader of our beloved country.
Our Zambian traditional Chiefs do not have degrees but they administer the affairs of their people better than some degree holders who are on record as having failed to run some companies.
As Zambians we should not be carried away by a person’s academic qualifications because it has been proven in the history of the world that even people with minimum qualifications can make good leaders.
CITIZENSHIP FOR MARRIED COUPLES
To become a Zambian Citizen, a new Article 20 requires a woman married to a man who is a citizen, or a man married to a woman who is a citizen, may, upon making an application in the manner prescribed by an Act of Parliament, be registered as a citizen of Zambia. Clause (1) shall apply only if the applicant has been ordinarily resident in the Republic for a continuous period of not less than fifteen (15) years immediately preceding that person’s application to become a Citizen. A 15-year period is too much, we ask the NCC to reduce this to a meaningful period say maximum 5 years or less.
AGE OF CONSENT – REDUCE FROM 21 YEARS TO 18 YEARS
There is always a contradiction between customary and statutory laws in Zambia which means that many laws in Zambia are disjointed and some of them do not address issues relating to children.
We ask the NCC to address this clause to adopt the age of consent from 21 years to 18 years inline with other developed nations considering also that Zambia has a low life expectance compared to developed countries.
Religions such as Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Jainism have a genuine stake in the Republican constitution and, therefore, deserve to be respected in spite of the fact that they are not currently as large as their Christian counterparts. The Republican constitution should be a neutral document that should not appear to discriminate.
In a globalised world we cannot afford to isolate ourselves in one religion. We suggest we call ourselves “A God fearing Nation”.
RIGHT TO VOTE ABROAD
We also feel that the NCC should have gone as far as recommending that Zambians in the Diaspora should be given the right to vote, as they are a constituency in their own right, given the population of those in the Diaspora.
Throughout the history of Zambia electoral processes the Zambian Diaspora have constantly been denied voting rights, even though most other nations, i.e. South Africans, Britain , America, have long ensured that their Diaspora are allowed to vote in their elections.
Zambians in the Diaspora see no real plausible reason why they should be disenfranchised.
While the government is calling on Zambians in the Diaspora to invest in the economy of the nation, it should at the same time empower them to participate in decision making by allowing Zambians in the Diaspora to vote in the general and local elections.
OTHERS – (Economic & Social Empowerment)
We also urge the re-introduction of weekly or fortnightly wages for lower working class up to junior management to ease the strife for waiting to be paid until the month end. Workers on low wages and those unable to work due to circumstances beyond their control should be given greater financial support in Zambia for Ill/Disabled Adults & Children and Tax Credit type for low paid workers etc.
Friday Nyambe – Zambia High Commissioner Observer