FDD deputy national secretary and party spokesperson Antonio Mwanza says that the proposed political parties Board must be comprised of representatives of political parties with representation in Parliament and a representative from the Ministry of Finance and not representatives of the Church and ZICA.
On Tuesday, justice minister Given Lubinda launched a stakeholder engagement on the development of a political parties bill, which he said would provide for the regulation of political campaign financing.
In written submissions of the FDD on the political parties bill, Mwanza agreed that Article 60 of the Republican Constitution provided for, among other things, the regulation and funding of political parties.
He noted that the government had come up with the political parties bill in a bid to operationalise Article 60 of the Constitution.
“It must be noted that this bill is largely a copy and paste of the Kenyan Act,” Mwanza stated.
“As a party, we have extensively scrutinised the bill and we have made, among others, the following submissions for consideration by the Ministry of Justice: 1. Composition of the political parties’ Board. The composition of the political parties Board excludes political parties. Instead, the Board is composed of representatives of the three Church mother bodies, ZICA and Ministry of Finance. As a party, we submit that the political parties Board must be comprised of representatives of political parties with representation in Parliament and a representative from the Ministry of Finance and not representatives of the Church and ZICA.”
In the bill, appointment of the Board is to be done by the President. However, Mwanza argued that such was amiss.
As a party, we are opposed to this because the President is an interested party, thus he should not meddle in the process of selecting who should and who shouldn’t sit on the Board. We submit that each political party must nominate their own members to sit on the Board,”
On party constitutions where the bill gives the Minister of Home Affairs authority to prescribe what must be contained therein, Mwanza stated that the FDD found such a proposition “to be preposterous and undemocratic”.
Political parties are independent associations registered under the Registrar of Societies hence each political party has the right to draft its own constitution, as long as it isn’t ultra vires the provisions of the Republican Constitution. The Minister has no right to prescribe what a political party should include or omit from its own constitution because such is the preserve of the members of that particular party,
He added that the quorum of the Board must be 50 per cent of the total number of the Board members.
The Bill, however, states that three members of the Board constitute a quorum.
On validity of proceedings of the Board, the bill states that the acts or decisions of the Board shall not be affected by any vacancy in the membership of the Board or appointment of any member or by reason that a person not entitled to do so took part in the proceedings.
We wish to submit that the proceedings, acts and decisions of the Board are not only important but can have serious ruminations hence they should only be considered to be valid if the correct quorum and procedures were followed and that no unauthorised persons took part in the proceedings,
The bill also gives the Board and its staff immunity from prosecution for any act or thing done or omitted to be done in good faith in the exercise or purported exercise of their performance.
On the immunity subject, Mwanza noted that the Board and its staff must first exercise their powers in trust and on behalf of the people of Zambia.
“Hence, they must be held accountable for what they do or omit to do in the performance of their duties. We therefore submit that these people must not enjoy any form of immunity from scrutiny or prosecution,” he argued.
Secondly, the concept of ‘good faith’ is vague and susceptible to abuse; what is it that must constitute ‘good faith’ and who determines an act or omission considered to be done in ‘good faith’? We therefore submit that this provision be scrapped from the bill to avoid abuse and to discourage wanton disregard of the rules, regulations and provisions of the eventual Act.
Further, according to the bill, the Registrar of Societies has powers to deregister a political party for instigating or participating in the commissioning of any electoral offence.
But Mwanza stated that such provision was not only too abstract but that it could prove to be problematic in its application.
How do you define a party? Who must be held accountable as a party? Does it mean that if a member of FDD for instance, at a tavern in Namushakende or at a village pub at Nyere ni Imbwa village gives a colleague a coin as a bribe to induce him into voting for FDD, then FDD as a party must suffer deregistration? Is that fair? How about the problem of selective application of the law?
“We therefore wish to submit that provisions that deal with offences that can result into the deregistration of a political party must be succinct to avoid abuse or conflict.”
On declaration of sources of political parties’ funding, Mwanza stated that the disclosure of such information must be limited to members’ contributions and not extended to mere sympathisers of the party.
He stated that the bill demands that political parties must submit to the Registrar of Societies all the names and detailed particulars of everyone who had funded or made any pledge to the party.
Firstly, most people, especially local businessmen don’t donate to opposition political parties for fear of retribution from the ruling party,
“Secondly, why should the Registrar demand for the publication of pledges? Does it mean that if a Mr Petition Daka at Nsima Mbumbu village in Petauke pledges to donate a packet of Nyama Soya to FDD that must be recorded and submitted to the Registrar? This demand is both cumbersome and frivolous! Of what value will such information be to the Registrar?”
The bill further states that a person or political party that feels aggrieved must appeal to the Minister of Home Affairs.
But Mwanza noted that the Minister of Home Affairs, being a politician, was an interested party and might not be the ideal person to appeal to because of probable bias.
We therefore wish to submit that in terms of conflict management, aggrieved parties must appeal to the Board and if they are not satisfied with the outcome of their appeal, then they can accelerate the matter to a competent court of law,
Meanwhile, on the bill’s provision that the Board reports to the President concerning its proceedings and performance, Mwanza stated that such a requirement was inappropriate because the President was an interested party.
We therefore submit that the Board must report to Parliament regarding its performance and proceedings. We wish to strongly appeal to the Minister of Justice to take into full consideration the submissions from stakeholders and not to use this consultative process for PR purposes only,
“We again wish to appeal to our members of parliament to debate this bill from a broader nationalistic view as opposed to debating it based on narrow partisan interests.”