History of Zambian Constitution


By Expendito Chipasha Chipalo

The Northern Rhodesia Independence Conference took place at Marlborough House in London from 5 May, 1964 to 19 May 1964 and was chaired by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and the Colonies Mr. Duncan Sandys, M.P.         

The following attended the Conference from the United Kingdom and what had become the self governing territory of Northern Rhodesia after the dissolution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

The Right Honourable Duncan Sandys, M.P., Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and for the Colonies        –



Mr. Richard Hornby,  Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and for the Colonies.         –


Vice Chairman

British Delegation: Sir Saville Garner, K.C.M.G., Sir Arthur Snelling, K.C.M.G., K.C.V.O., Mr. N.D. Watson, C.M.G., Mr. S.P. Whitley, Mr. A.R. Rushford, C.M.G., Mr. J.C. Hooton, C.M.G., M.B.E., Q.C., Mr. G.W. Jamieson, Mr. D.R. Willmott.

Northern Rhodesia Government: Dr. K.D. Kaunda, Prime Minister, Mr. M.M. Chona, Minister of Justice, Mr. S.M. Kapwepwe, Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. A.N.L. Wina, Minister of Finance, Mr. E.H.K. Mudenda, Minister of Agriculture, Mr. A.M. Milner, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Mr. J.K. Chivunga, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and Mr. H.M. Kikombe, Member of the Legislative Assembly.

African National Congress: Mr. H.M. Nkumbula, Mr. M. Mumbuna and Mr. B.L. Lombe.

National Progress Party: Mr. H.J. Roberts, Mr. C.D. Burney and Mr. H.R.E. Mitchley.

Secretariat: Mr J.D.A. Howard-Drake, Mr. C.C.W Adams, Mr. A.M. Fox, Mr. T.A.A. Hart, Mr. E.D. Davies, Mr. R.C. Kite and Mr. N.O. Rampton.

The Conference held fourteen plenary meetings under the chairmanship of Mr. Richard Hornby and the Secretary of State presented a report of the proceedings and to the British Parliament in May 1964. The purpose of the Conference was to settle the form of the Northern Rhodesian constitution at independence and a list of amendments were agreed to among the parties.

In addition to the constitutional matters, a separate agreement was reached outside the Conference between the Northern Rhodesia Government and the Litunga on the future position of Barotseland within Northern Rhodesia.

The British Government decided during the Conference that Northern Rhodesia, under the name of the Republic of Zambia, should become independent on the 24TH October, 1964.

The Conference also discussed the issue of land as that time there was Crown Land, Native Reserves and Native Trust land and it was necessary to change the laws before Zambia became independent. The following were the provisions it was agreed to include in the Independence Constitution.

The Republic

1. The territory of Northern Rhodesia should be known as Zambia which should be a sovereign republic. There should be a public seal of the Republic which would be prescribed by Parliament.

Human Rights

2. The provisions of the independence constitution relating to human rights should in the same form as those in Chapter I of the present constitution subject to the following modifications.

(a)        There should be a provision under which the President could declare that a state of emergency existed. Such a declaration, if not sooner revoked, would cease to have effect after five days, if Parliament was sitting, or twenty-one days, if parliament was not sitting, unless approved by resolution of the National Assembly. Once so approved, the declaration would continue in force for six months, unless sooner revoked by the Assembly, and could be extended by the Assembly for further periods, not exceeding six months as a time.

(b)       While Zambia was at war or a state of emergency was declared to be in force under paragraph (a) above, reasonably justifiable measures for dealing with the emergency situation would be permissible although they derogated from the provisions of the independence constitution corresponding to section 3 or section 13 of the present constitution.

3. The Constitutional Council established by the present constitution would not be reproduced in the independence constitution. But a section would be included in the chapter of the independence constitution dealing with human rights immediately before the section corresponding to section 15 of the present constitution, containing provisions to the following effect:-

(a)        if not less than seven members of the National Assembly gave written notice to the Speaker within three days after the final reading of any bill by the Assembly, the Speaker would inform the Chief Justice, who would appoint a tribunal consisting of two persons, each of whom would be a serving judge of the High Court or a retired judge;

(b)       the tribunal would then consider whether the bill if enacted, would be inconsistent with the code of the human rights included in the independence constitution and make a report on the matter to the President and the Speaker:

Provided that if the tribunal considered that the grounds put forward for consideration of the bill was merely frivolous or vexatious, it would have power to refuse to proceed further;

(c) if the tribunal reported that the bill appeared to be inconsistent with the code of human rights, the President would be able –

(i) to assent to the bill;

(ii) to refuse his assent; or

(iii) to return the bill to the Assembly, in which case the procedure described in paragraph 38 of this Annex would apply (38 refers to Power of Legislation).

(d)a procedure similar to that described in paragraphs (a) and (b) above would apply in relation to statutory instruments, which would have to be published in the Gazette within fourteen days of their being made;

(e) if the tribunal reported that the statutory instrument in question appeared to be inconsistent with code of the human rights, the President would be able to make an order either affirming it or annulling it;

(f) the tribunal would also be empowered to perform the functions at present conferred on the Constitutional Council by section 22 of the present constitution.

4. In the light of the foregoing, the section of the independence constitution corresponding to section 15 of the present constitution would be suitably amended to make it clear that its provisions did not extend to draft legislation.

The President

5. There should a President who would be the Head of State and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

6. A candidate for the Presidency should be a citizen of the Zambia who is qualified as a voter for the Parliamentary election and is at least 30 years old.

7. Elections for the President should take place at the same time as the general elections of members of the National Assembly after any dissolution of Parliament in the following manner:-

(a) Each candidate would need to be nominated by at least 1,000 persons registered as voters for the purpose of the general election;

(b) each candidate for the election to the National Assembly would declare in advance which presidential candidate he supported and ballot papers printed for use in each constituency would show, with the name of the each parliamentary candidate standing in the constituency, the name of the presidential candidate for whom he had declared his support;

(C) When polling took place; each voter would be entitled to vote at one and the same time for the parliamentary candidate of his choice and the presidential candidate supported by that candidate. The successful candidate for election as President would be the candidate who received the greatest number of votes from the electorate as a whole.

((Special provision was made before independence for the election by secret ballot of members of the Legislative Assembly of the person who would become the first President of Zambia. In the election, the successful candidate was required to obtain more than half the votes of the total number of elected members of Parliament in the first or second ballot. If no candidate had been elected after two ballots, then a third ballot should be held and the candidate obtaining the greatest number of votes would become President at independence)

This is how Dr. Kaunda was elected as first republican President and clause 4 of the independence Constitution stated that the first President of the Republic of Zambia shall be Dr. Kenneth David Kaunda.

Prerogative of Mercy

The President was also given the power of pardon as set out in section 83(1) of the Northern Rhodesia Constitution. Under this section, the President would appoint an advisory committee which he would consult in all capital cases and in such other cases as he thought fit. Other provisions that were included in relation to the office of the President were the clauses dealing with the filling of the vacancy if the President died or resigned before the end of his term, the procedure for removing a President on the grounds of physical or mental infirmity, violation of the constitution and gross misconduct.

The Franchise

The franchise was based on Universal Suffrage for all persons aged twenty-one years and above who are citizens of Zambia and who are not otherwise disqualified.

This was the biggest victory for the nationalists especially the United National Independence Party, UNIP, who had tenaciously campaigned for one man one vote for many years.

The Conference also agreed the creation of constitutional offices which included the Secretary to the Cabinet, Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions. All appointments to these three offices were to be made by the President. The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions was protected under the constitution from reduction of emoluments.

The Director of Public Prosecutions was given the power to institute and discontinue criminal proceedings on his own responsibility provided that he would be required to bring to the notice of the Attorney General any case that appears to the Director to involve questions of public policy and to act in accordance with the directions of the Attorney General in respect thereof, such directions to be given by the Attorney General on his own responsibility.

Functions and Composition of the Legislature

The legislative powers of the Republic were vested in a Parliament consisting of the President and a National Assembly of 75 elected members. The President was given power to nominate five persons as special members to the National Assembly in the public interest in order to enhance the representative character of the Assembly or obtain services of the persons who, by reason of their special qualifications, would be of particular value as members of the Assembly.

The President was not a member of the National Assembly but had the power to address it at any time.

All candidates for election to the National Assembly should be citizens of Zambia aged not less than twenty-one years, subject to certain disqualifications which should be on the lines of the provisions of section 37 of the present constitution.

There would be a Speaker of the National Assembly who would be elected by the National Assembly either from the members of the Assembly or from persons outside the Assembly who are qualified for the membership of the Assembly. Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries and certain other officers who may be prescribed by Parliament should be ineligible for this appointment.

A provision was made for the Speaker to vacate his office under certain circumstances of which the most important was a resolution of the National Assembly supported by not less than two thirds of its members.

The Deputy Speaker of the House would also be elected in the same manner as the Speaker from among the members. Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries were ineligible for election.

Procedures were led out to regulate the Legislative Power of Parliament, Summoning, Prorogation and Dissolution of Parliament.

Questions of Membership of the National Assembly

The power to hear and determine questions relating to membership of the National Assembly were vested in the High Court.

The Conference also agreed on the establishment of an independent Electoral Commission, independent Judiciary, Financial Orders, Armed Forces, functions and procedures of the House of Chiefs and the provisions relating to Zambian Citizenship.


The Conference agreed that it would not be appropriate for the Crown or the Secretary of State to continue to hold land in Northern Rhodesia after independence. It was therefore agreed to amend the Orders in Council shortly before independence so that with effect from the date of independence the lands in question would vest in the President on behalf of the Republic and the function of the Governor of Northern Rhodesia would be transferred to the President or to such other authority as the President might prescribe by order.

The above are extracts from the conference report which with many other provisions were included in the amendments to the Northern Rhodesia Constitution to give Zambia its Constitution at independence.

I would like the readers to note that Zambia did not draft and enact a new constitution at attainment of independence, but, the Northern Rhodesia Constitution was amended to meet the aspirations of the people of the new Republic of Zambia.

Next week, we will conclude the series of the Zambian Constitution with its post independence history from 1964 to 2015.

Those who wish to have a full text of the Northern Rhodesia Independence Conference, 1964 may contact me on the addresses below:

ecchipalo@yahoo.co.uk or pentvision@gmail.com


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