FOUNDATION for Democracy Process (FODEP) says President Hakainde Hichilema’s decision to swear in Ministers before the newly introduced Ministries are ratified by Parliament is not fatal because it’s curable.
In an interview, FODEP executive director George Chimembe said President Hichilema “cured” the problem by directing the Ministers in the new ministries not to execute any duties until Parliament approves the creation.
“What is misleading is that people are saying the President does not have the power to do what he did and I think that is misleading the nation. When you read article 92, the President is given this as part of exercising his executive authority. He can establish, merge and he can also dissolve government Ministries but of course this is subject to approval of the National Assembly. They have also given a time frame for doing it and this is covered under article 94 where it says 21 days. We do not think this was fatal. This is something which was curable and I think the President actually provided a cure for it because he has told those Ministers that he appointed for the new Ministries [but they have] to wait until parliament approves. I think that has been a cured problem which was created,” he said.
“We also have a precedent. We know that the late Michael Sata did similar things like this and that time I think people were not conscious yet and they did not even raise any issue then. We think that he has the powers as part of his functions to do what he did but he has also cured what has been termed to be a breach of the constitution by saying ‘do not execute any function yet until parliament does its part’. That is what is important. We also hail the Zambia people for their vigilance. I think going forward we will see that Zambians will now rise up and demand what is correct and I think they will never be taken for granted anymore. I think these are lessons learnt.”
And Chimembe urged the President to quickly appoint an Attorney General who would advise regarding the performance of his Executive functions.
“That is why we were saying that the President should quickly appoint the Attorney General because the one who used to be there is no longer holding office by virtue of the President being sworn [in]. The President must organize himself by appointing the legal team and also the political team to advise him so that he consults with those people. You will not have the time to look at the law and it will be up to those people to advise him. So we are advising the President to quickly appoint the new Attorney General and his political advisors so that they begin to advise him regarding the performance of his Executive functions. FODEP is further advising the President and those advising him to subject all Presidential decisions to the provisions of the law so as to avoid violating the constitution or disregarding the rule of law,” said Chimembe.
“We are also appealing to stakeholders to desist from exerting unnecessary pressure on the President because he needs time to reconcile the manifesto promises that were made especially during the run up to the elections with the existing legal and policy framework. The same people who are demanding that he fulfils his election promises within weeks will begin demanding for his impeachment for abrogating the rule of law. We also find it healthy for the growth of our democracy that Zambians, stakeholders are alert and eagerly participating in the democratic dispensation. And they are ready to defend the constitution to prevent anyone from illegally abrogating its provisions in line with Article 2 of the constitution.”