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Zambia - Government

Zambia became a republic immediately upon attaining independence in October 1964. The constitution promulgated on August 25, 1973, abrogated the original 1964 constitution. The new constitution and the national elections that followed in December 1973 were the final steps in achieving what was called a "one-party participatory democracy."

The 1973 constitution provided for a strong president and a unicameral National Assembly. National policy was formulated by the Central Committee of the United National Independence Party (UNIP), the sole legal party in Zambia. The cabinet executed the central committee's policy.

In accordance with the intention to formalize UNIP supremacy in the new system, the constitution stipulated that the sole candidate in elections for the office of president was the person selected to be the president of UNIP by the party's general conference. The second-ranking person in the Zambian hierarchy was UNIP's secretary general.

Virtually no distinction was perceived between the party and the government: so much so that all decisions were announced in the name of "the Party and its Government", indicative of the associate and subordinate role of the latter. This situation undoubtedly resulted in frustration on the part of r1inisters and Civil Servants, as weIl as to the politicization of the Civil Service, which was perhaps an inevitable feature of one-party government. (Kaunda himself was quite unequivocal: "The United National Independence Party is supreme over all institutions in our land".) It also led to problems because of the inclusion within the Party and Government of a range of political viewpoints. These could pull in different directions and lead to confusion regarding government policy.

In December 1990, at the end of a tumultuous year that included riots in the capital and a coup attempt, President Kenneth Kaunda signed legislation ending UNIP's monopoly on power. Zambia enacted a new constitution in August 1991, which enlarged the National Assembly from 136 members to a maximum of 158 members, established an electoral commission, and allowed for more than one presidential candidate who no longer had to be a member of UNIP. The constitution was amended again in 1996 to set new limits on the presidency (including a retroactive two-term limit, and a requirement that both parents of a candidate be Zambian-born).

State House is a Government institution which is also the seat of the Presidency of the Republic of Zambia. The Presidency is charged with the critical responsibility of the overall governance of Zambia ensuring that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation is upheld for the sole purpose of protecting and safeguarding the country’s interests, its citizens and residents. The mandate of the Presidency of the Republic of Zambia is derived from Articles 33 and 44 of the Constitution of Zambia Act No. 2 of 2016.

Some of the Portfolio functions for the Office of the President include:

  • Constitutional Matters;
  • Coordination of Government Business;
  • Exercise Prerogative of Mercy
  • State Functions such as: Zambia’s Independence Day celebrations, Africa Freedom Day, among other State Functions.

Cabinet Office is the highest administrative office in the Public Service responsible for coordinating the effective implementation of Government policies, systems and procedures and the monitoring and evaluation of the overall performance of the Public Service for the efficient administration of Government. It operates directly under the Office of the President of the Republic of Zambia.

Cabinet Ministers are appointed by the President from among Members of the National Assembly, who may be elected or appointed by the President. In general President Kaunda sought to maintain a regional balance in allocating Cabinet to UNlP. A feature of Zambian political life is the frequency of governmental reorganization and ministerial re-shuffles. This has a destabilizing effect on the process of government, while providing President Kaunda with the power of initiative.

The National Assembly is comprised of 150 directly elected members, up to eight presidentially-appointed members, and a speaker. At the time of Zambia’s Independence in 1964, Parliament was housed in inadequate and unsuitable premises behind the Government’s Central Offices in Lusaka, commonly known as the Secretariat Area. It was, therefore, apparent at the time of independence that a more fitting Parliament building should be constructed to meet future expansion and also to provide adequate Members’ sitting and office accommodation.

A site was chosen on the crown of a low hill in Lusaka which dominate the surrounding landscape and which was at one time site of the dwelling place of village Headman Lusaka, after whom the City of Lusaka is now named. The new National Assembly building was planned so that its external appearance expresses the dignity and power of Government, while internally, it is planned to function as a centre of administration. The focal point of the building is the Chamber, which is rich in decoration and colour in contrast to the rest of the building.

The building itself covers about one hectare and is designed on four main levels. These are the lower ground level (with main service rooms and under-cover parking), the podium level (with main public entrance foyer and the main private Members rooms), the first floor level (with the main administrative rooms, Members’ rooms and, centrally, the Chamber which was designed to seat 120 Members) and the gallery level. This latter has the Press, Public and Mr Speaker’s Galleries all designed to seat over 268 strangers.

The National Assembly of Zambia has been undertaking reforms in order to strengthen the performance of its constitutional functions. The reforms have been going on since the 1990s when the country reverted to multi-party politics from the one party system of governance. Throughout this period, the National Assembly has endeavoured to entrench democratic principles of enhancing Parliamentary oversight of the Executive and increased public participation in Parliamentary processes. The reforms are intended to, among other things, entrench democratic ideals by enhancing Parliamentary oversight of the Executive and also provide for increased public participation in Parliamentary processes.

The Zambian Parliamentary System has evolved through three major phases, namely, the multi-party Parliamentary system from 1964 to 1972, the one-party Parliamentary system from 1973 to 1990 and, currently, the multi-party Parliamentary system that the country reverted to in 1991.

At Independence, in 1964, the Zambian Constitution provided for a National Assembly comprising seventy-five elective seats and five Presidential nominative seats. The total number of Members in the House was, therefore, eighty and this remained the strength of the House for four years. In 1968, the Constitution (Amendment) Act, No. 2 of 1968 of the Laws of Zambia, raised the membership of the Assembly to 110, of which 105 were elected and five nominated. This remained the strength of the House until 1972, when the First Republic came to an end. The ushering in of the Second Republic and the One-party State by Act No. 27 of 1973 increased the membership of the National Assembly from 110 to 135, of which the number of elected Members was 125 while that for nominated Members was doubled to ten.

The Third Republic was ushered in following the repeal of Article 4 of the 1973 Constitution, in 1990. The new Constitution increased the number of elected Members from 135 to 150 and provided for the Speaker and eight members to be nominated by the President, bringing the total number of MPs to 159.

Zambia is divided into nine provinces, each administered by an appointed deputy minister who essentially performs the duties of a governor.

The Supreme Court is the highest court and the court of appeal; below it are the high court, magistrate's court, and local courts. The limited powers of the legislature to contral the executive made all the rrore iJnportant that the judiciary should be indePendent. By and large, the rule of law has been upheld; judges have not been dismissed and justice has not been perverted to political ends. But the record is not untarnished and emergency regulatians inherited from the colonial regime , which were enforced during the Rhodesian UDI crisis period, are still in force; in effect, they allow preventive detention indefinitely without trial at the President's sole discretion.

While debating the proposed final draft of the new national constitution in December 2015, parliament rejected a suggestion to move language deeming the country a Christian nation from the preamble to the bill of rights section. Both Christian and non-Christian leaders agreed that including this language in the bill of rights could lead to discrimination against non-Christian faiths, despite provisions elsewhere in the draft constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion and of conscience. Some religious groups also said the clause in the existing constitution’s preamble stating the country was a “Christian nation” excluded them.

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