By Charles Kakoma,
Member of the National Management.
The United Party for National Development (UPND) Constitution was amended at the just ended General Assembly of the party. We have seen a lot of debates surrounding the UPND Constitutional amendments. What really was amended?
A lot of research was conducted in coming up with amendments to the UPND Constitution. It was necessary to amend the party Constitution to reflect today’s Zambia. The underlying philosophy was to come up with a Constitution that will re-unite and rebuild the country. Re-uniting and rebuilding the country also became the theme for the General Assembly.
The party looked at the constitutions of various political parties in Zambia and other countries in order to come up with a constitution for UPND that will reposition the party to face the challenges facing the country today and in the future. We found the Constitution of the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa particularly inspiring. Being the oldest political party in Africa, born in 1912, we needed to learn something that has kept ANC together for such a long time. We drew heavily from the ANC model to come up with the UPND constitutional amendments. In the ANC model, many of the party executives get elected to a pool and thereafter are assigned to various portfolios. Apart from the president and a few people who are elected directly to some positions, everybody else gets elected to the pool.
The concept that was relevant to the UPND was ” election to the pool.” Therefore, apart from the UPND President who should be elected directly by the electoral college to the position of party president, everyone else who wants to be a member of the National Management Committee gets elected to the pool. After being elected to the pool, the winners can then be assigned positions in the National Management Committee.
The UPND Constitution, even before this year’s General Assembly, already provided for the election of members to the National Management Committee under Article 52 and 60. Due to misinterpretation in the past, some people were vying for specific positions in the National Management Committee. It became necessary to amend the Constitution to delete an article that referred to portfolios in the National Management Committee. These portfolios will now come under subsidiary regulations of the party rather than the party Constitution.
It was also necessary to amend the UPND Constitution to provide for only one vice president. In the past, the UPND Constitution provided for four vice presidents. These were vice president (administration), vice president (politics), vice president (economy) and vice president (gender). The position of vice president in charge of gender matters was never even occupied by anybody in the past. The existence of many vice presidents created unnecessary confusion among occupants of the positions as some of them thought that they were more senior than the other vice presidents. The chain of command was also difficult to follow as there were different centres of power.
The Constitution was also amended to include mayors and council chairpersons as delegates to the General Assembly. At the time the old UPND Constitution was formulated, the country did not have mayors and council chairpersons who were directly elected by the people. As people’s elected representatives in the local government system, it became necessary to amend the UPND Constitution to provide for the mayors and council chairpersons to be part of the electoral college at the General Assembly.
It also became necessary to amend the UPND Constitution to align it with the Republican Constitution in terms of values and principles of equality, gender representation, regional representation and non-discrimination. In this regard, the UPND Constitution was amended to increase the number of women and youth in decision making positions in the party structures. For example, the member of vice women chairpersons was increased from two to three at provincial, district, constituency and ward levels to align it to the national level where the women chairperson is already deputised by three other women. Similarly, the constitution was amended to provide for more youth in the party structure as described above for women.
The constitution was also amended to give some powers to the president to nominate people to the National Management Committee to take care of any shortcomings arising from intra-party elections in terms of gender and regional representation as well as skills and persons living with disabilities.
All the Constitutional amendments were subjected to a vote at the General Assembly. For the Constitutional amendments to pass through, it required a two-thirds majority of all the delegates at the General Assembly. It actually took almost the whole day during the General Assembly to vote on the constitution. It partly explains why the General Assembly took long to conclude because the constitution had to be passed first before proceeding to elect members of the National Management Committee.
The final product is that the UPND now has a constitution that unites the party and the country. The UPND has now positioned itself to face the challenges of today’s Zambia.