Zambia has a new president in the person of finance minister, Margaret Mwanakatwe. She is serving in a temporary capacity in the absence of the president and his vice, the local news portal Mwebantu reports.
President Edgar Lungu has left the country to Namibia, where he is due to attend the 38th Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Summit of Heads of State and Government.
The vice president Inonge Wina – one of two female vice presidents in Africa, is also away in Turkey on official visit.
According to Zambian laws, the president or his vice hands over to a top government official when leaving the country. President Lungu thus signed an executive order to that effect before leaving.
The practise in other Anglophone African countries requires that the speaker of parliament takes up the role in the absence of the two politically elected leaders. In the case of Ghana for example, the Chief Justice swears in the Speaker of Parliament – in order to cover the power vacuum.
Zambian law on discharge of functions of President during absence, illness, etc.
(1) Whenever the President is absent from Zambia or considers it desirable so to do by reason of illness or for any other cause, he may by direction in writing, authorise the Vice-President, or where the Vice-President is absent from Zambia or incapable of discharging the functions of the office of President, any other person, to discharge such functions of the office of President as he may specify, and the Vice-President or such other person may discharge those functions until his authority is revoked by the President.
(2) If the President is incapable by reason of physical or mental infirmity of discharging the functions of his office and the infirmity is of such a nature that the President is unable to authorize another person under this Article to perform those functions —
(a) the Vice-President; or
(b) during any period when the Vice-President is absent from Zambia or is himself, by reason of physical or mental infirmity, unable to perform the functions of his office, such member of the Cabinet as the Cabinet shall elect;
shall perform the functions of the office of President: Provided that any person performing the functions of the office of President under this clause shall not dissolve the National Assembly nor, except on the advice of the Cabinet, revoke any appointment made by the President.
(3) Any person performing the functions of the office of President by virtue of clause (2) shall cease to perform those functions if he is notified by the Speaker that the President is about to resume those functions or if another person is elected as, and assumes the office of, President.
(4) For the purpose of clause (2), a certificate of the Chief Justice that —
(a) the President is incapable by reason of physical or mental infirmity of discharging the functions of his office and that the infirmity is of such a nature that the President is unable to authorise another person under this Article to perform those functions; or
(b) the Vice-President is by reason of physical or mental infirmity unable to discharge the functions of his office:
shall be of no effect until such certificate is verified by the National Assembly:
Provided that any such certificate as is referred to in paragraph (a) shall cease to have effect if the President notifies any person under clause (3) that he is about to resume the functions of the office of the President or if another person is elected as, and assumes the office of President.