DELEGATES to the National Dialogue Forum on Monday evening voted for, using a secret ballot, an increase in the number of days that a presidential petition should be heard and determined.
Article 103 (1) of the current Republican Constitution states that a person may, within seven days of the declaration of a President-elect, petition the Constitutional Court to nullify the election of the President-elect on the ground that (a) the person was not validly elected or (b) a provision of this Constitution or other law relating to presidential elections was not complied with.
Article 103 (2) states that the Constitutional Court shall hear an election petition relating to the President-elect within 14 days of the filing of the petition.
There was contention on the 14 days currently provided for in the Constitution as many people felt they were inadequate, hence the National Dialogue Forum (NDF) resorting to a secret ballot.
After the secret ballot administered by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka, NDF returning officer Zachariah Kunda announced the results.
He said 29 delegates voted for 14 working days, 31 voted for 14 calendar days, 33 voted for 30 working days and that 86 delegates voted for 30 calendar days.
“I further declare that one ballot paper has been rejected as invalid. I therefore declare that the 30 calendar days have it in [the] affirmative,” Kunda said.
Article 149 (1) of the Constitution was also subjected to a secret ballot but the NDF delegates voted against it.
The Article states that the President may, subject to the approval of the National Assembly, create or divide a province or merge two or more provinces, as prescribed
“I, Zachariah Kunda, being the returning officer for National Dialogue Forum, do hereby declare that I have, in accordance with the law, ascertained the result of the poll in the said election of Article 149 and that they have been given to…. The yes got 83 votes, the no got 96 votes,” he declared.
“I further declare that only one ballot paper has been rejected as invalid. I therefore declare that the ‘no’ have it in [the] affirmative.”
The result means that the Republican President would not need to seek the approval of the National Assembly in order to create or divide a province or merge two or more provinces, as prescribed.
Meanwhile, the Forum’s delegates debated Article 186 of the Constitution but failed to reach consensus pertaining to the period civil servants needed to ‘cool off’ before joining active politics.
Article 186 (1) states that a public officer who seeks election, or is appointed, to a State office shall resign.
Sakwiba Sikota, the NDF group two chairperson, disclosed that the position of his group was that civil servants who wished to go into politics should resign from their positions at least three years before the election.
The three years, however, ‘rattled’ most delegates in the plenary hall.
NDF spokesperson Isaac Mwanza stood and suggested that since the matter turned out to be arguable, it should be subjected to a secret ballot.
“If we are going to vote on this matter which has raised contention, the Act is very clear where there is no consensus; we need to subject the issue to a secret ballot,” said Mwanza.
Serenje Central MMD member of parliament Maxwell Kabanda said the principle that a civil servant should resign when they wanted to join active politics was generally agreed upon.
“[But] what we haven’t agreed upon is the time limit,” debated Kabanda.
Forum co-vice-chairperson Mary Mulenga said: “since we seem not to reach a consensus, it will be subjected to a vote. We ask ECZ to help us,”
Voting is yet to take place.
The Forum adjourned slightly after 18:30 hours.