Blog of the International Journal of Constitutional Law

What country was this anyway? Suit to disqualify president of Zambia from running

In the constitutional non-sequiter department:

Zambia is gearing up for a presidential election, and incumbent Rupiah Banda, seeking a second elected term, has just been hit with a lawsuit seeking to disqualify him from running. The Zambian Constitution, Art. 34, provides for the qualifications for the presidency. One cannot serve as a candidate unless he is a citizen, 35 years of age, and, crucially “both his parents are Zambians by birth or descent.”

A literal reading of this clause is problematic, since the country only came into existence in 1962, and Banda was born in 1935. The question then becomes, what does it mean to be of Zambian descent?

Banda himself in what is now Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia); the lawsuit filed by the opposition Patriotric Front contends that his parents were born in neighboring Malawi, then known as Nyasaland, which was later integrated into Rhodesia in 1953. A competing assertion is that the parents migrated from Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). The court papers assert “We are claiming a declaratory judgment or order that the parents of President Banda are not citizens of Zambia by birth and that the MMD (Movement for Multi-party Democracy) cannot by law sponsor him as presidential candidate.”

The question is whether Malawi is close enough for government work?


UPDATE: This lawsuit was dismissed by the High Court, and so Banda will indeed be allowed to run.


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