Parliament as a form of legal control of administrative (Executive) process in Zambia during the One-Party era (Critical Evaluation)

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Lungu, Stephen
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The year 1990 like memorable years of 1964 and 1973 will go down in the history of Zambia as a significant turning point in the dynamic political process of the growing young nation. In March that year, it was decided at United National Independence Party (UNIP) national council that there will be held a referendum in the nation for people of Zambia to decide whether they wanted Zambia to continue as one party participatory democracy or the opening of the nations political process to a multi¬party democracy. It was decided further that in referendum UNIP was to support the continuation of one party participatory democracy. Some organisations, like the Movement for Multyparty Democracy were formed which spearheaded the campaign for multipartism. However, due to political pressure, the President announced, at the opening of the 25th National Council of UNIP, in September that the Central Committee had decided that the referendum should be cancelled and that the country should sail through into multipartism. The President made further recommendations at this council meeting which included inter alia the amending of the Republican Constitution. With this and the signing of the bill which repealed Article four of the Republican Constitution the Third Republic was born. 1964 was the first turning point in the history of Zambia. On the 24th October that year, Zambia, after a long battle attained independence from Britain which has been its colonial master as from 1924. At independence Zambia was a multiparty state with ruling party being UNIP headed by President Kenneth Kaunda. There were also opposition parties, the prominent one being the African National Congress (ANC) headed by Harry MwangaNkumbula'. Thethree organs of government, that is, the executive, legislative and judiciary, were established and functioned in a manner to suit the Multiparty System. The system Zambia adopted was the Westminister model. However, the joy of being a Multiparty State was short lived because on the 25th of February 1972, President Kaunda at a press conference at the State House made a historic statement when he announced that the government had decided that Zambia shall become a one party participatory democracy and that practical steps had been taken to implement the decision. In his statement the President announced the appointment of a National Commission, headed by Mr Mainza Chona, to consider the changes in the Republican Constitution. This change from Multipartism to One Party System was not received with joy by everyone especially the opposition who believed that with the coming of the one-party era, people's fundamental human rights, among other things, would be infringed by the ruling party. This opposition was brought to light when the leader of ANC petitioned the state to court in a case that has become a milestone case in Zambian Constitutional Law.3 Despite the fact this petition was rejected, it showed that not every Zambian had voluntarily agreed to the change of the mode of system of government. The suppressing of opposition parties by ruling parties in Africa is a common feature, what happens is that 'at independence the dominant or ruling party invariably has other parties to compete with and the usual technique is to invite other parties to join hands with it in the supreme task of nation building in order to save the people from the grip of poverty, disease and ignorance. Once lured into the union, the weaker parties are sooner or later swallowed up. By the adoption of its supposed partners, the dominant party now emerges as the single party.' In concurring with a great author's statements above, this is exactly what happened in Zambia. The ruling party, UNIP, managed to overide other political parties by making decisions unilaterally. Initially the President had announced that if there was going to be any change in the political system of the country, that was going to done with consultation of the people, that is through a referendum. But by making the announcement of the change of political system, in the way he did, it was that, was the decision of the central committee of UNIP. No otherperson, the opposition included, was consulted over this issue although the President alleged that he had received numerous letters from people telling to change the form of government. And by including some people who were in the opposition parties into it, UNIP succeeded in becoming or emerging as the only political party in Zambia. It is common that when a state is under a one-party model it is potentially dictatorial, but the UNIP government maintained that democracy would still exist under this system and they thus called their one-party system as "one-party participatory democracy". And in the bid of trying maintain democracy, the UNIP government decided to retain, in their new Republican Constitution, the three organs of government. It was their hope that with the retention of these organs of government an effective system of checks and balances would exist. However, argument arose as to how effective this system would be because a one-party state cannot effectively check itself to control abuse of power. The UNIP government maintained, however, that with the existence of three organs of government abuse of power curbed as each organ was going to act as an effective check on the others. They believed that in achieving this, each organ was to act as a legal control of the others thus checking any abuse of power. In trying to understand the effectiveness of these legal controls established, this paper will focus on one^hese legal controls, this being the Parliament. The paper will evaluate the role parliament played during the one- party era and determine whether it had been an effective legal control of the other organs especially the executive; thus explaining whether or not a one-party state can effectively check itself to curb abuse of power. The paper will as way of introduction b*.discussing what a government is. This will be in the first chapter. This chapter will go on to identify the three organs that are found in every democratic government, these being, the executive, legislative and judiciary, thus leading to the discussion of the concept of separation of powers and explaining its importance in a democratic state. The chapter will examine further the concept of the role of law and its contribution in attaining democracy in a state. The chapter will go on to make some statements as to the changes that are going to be made to the republican constitution as the country goes into a third republic. This will be in comparison to the situation as it existed since 1973. The relevance of this chapter to the rest of the argument will be made as the conclusion of the chapter. Chapter two will begin with the definition of Parliament. The chapter will continue with the discussion of the Parliament in Zambia during the one party era. Notable features like were Parliament derives its powers from, who qualifies to be a member and how one loses his membership will be explained. The chapter will go further to discuss how Parliament acts as a legal control by discussing its first form of control which will be the course of debate. This will be discussed under four heads; (a) question time (b) debates on appropriation bill:- This will look at how Parliament assesses, criticises and evaluates public institutions and thus control the flow of money to the institutions. (c) Exercise of legislative power:- This will look at the power parliament possesses on debates on respective bills. This part will explain the extent of this power. (d) Ruling, of the speaker:- This will examine the extent of the power of the speaker when he makes rulings, whether the administrative body is bound by such rulings or not. This chapter will end with an evaluation of what is likely to be the situation in the third Republic as Parliament will now have to accommodate a Multiparty System. Reference will be made to the constitutional bill to try and explain how the Parliament will be composed of. The third chapter will discuss the other form of legal control which is through sessional and select committees. The definition of these committees will be given and from this their functions derived. The composition and procedures of the committees will be given and although all committees will be explained, much emphasis will be placed on assessing the effectiveness of the Delegated Legisla¬tion and Local Administration committees. Also to be explained under this chapter will be the other form of legal control and this is done through the reading of annual reports. The annual reports to be considered under this will be those of the Commission for Investigation and the Auditor General. Under this, the paper will discuss the essence and effect of reading annual reports and whether this has any control on the administrative process. Chapter four will be the concluding chapter which will give an evaluation as to whether parliament functioned accordingly during the one-party era for it to conclude that democracy existed. The short falls of parliament will be examined. And also to be discussed will be the new constitutional bill and see how parliament will function in the third Republic.
One-Party Systems-Zambia , Zambia-Politics and Government