The Parliament buildings are situated on Parliament road, off the Great East Road on the crown of a low hill east of the central business district of Lusaka. The Buildings are easily accessible by public transport as the Great East Road is one of the busiest commuter routes in the city. The notable developments in the vicinity are the Manda Hill and Arcades shopping malls, the Agricultural and Commercial Show Society Showgrounds and the Mulungushi International Conference Center.
The first meeting of the Northern Rhodesia Parliament took place on 23rd May 1924 in Livingstone, the first capital of Northern Rhodesia. The Parliament elected in December 2001 was the twentieth Parliament to have been elected since parliamentary government began in Zambia. This makes the Zambian Parliament one of the oldest continuously functioning legislatures in the Southern African Sub-region.
Since independence on the 24th October, 1964, Zambia has evolved through eleven (11) Parliaments. In this regard, by 24th October, 2014, the Zambian Parliament will have continuously have enjoyed Parliamentary democracy for fifty (50) years.
According to Article 62 of the Constitution of Zambia, “Parliament” is a composite body consisting of the President and the National Assembly. The Republican President, through the powers conferred by the Constitution, calls Parliament to meet, orders elections to take place and gives final approval to laws (the Presidential Assent) but does not otherwise play an active role in parliamentary work. It is the National Assembly, which consists of elected and nominated Members of Parliament that carries out a wide range of important public responsibilities.
These responsibilities include making laws (Acts of Parliament), approving proposals for taxation and public expenditure, and keeping the work of the Government under scrutiny and review.
Parliament is not the same the thing as the Executive. Parliament does not appoint the Executive (the Executive is appointed by the Republican President ) but in order to remain in office, the Executive must be able to avoid defeat on important matters such as the Budget. If the Executive can rely on the support of Parliament on important matters, it is said to have the confidence of the House. The principle that a government remains in office only so long as it has the confidence of the House is known as RESPONSIBLE GOVERNANCE (because the Government is responsible to the House for the retention of the House’s confidence) and is of fundamental constitutional importance in our system.
The Election of Members of Parliament
Members of Parliament are elected for a five (5) year term on the basis of elections at which every adult person aged eighteen (18) years of age and above and permanently resident in Zambia is entitled to vote.
There are one hundred and fifty parliamentary constituencies where those aspiring to be Members of Parliament stand for elections every five years. The Republican President nominates eight Members. The total number of Members of Parliament is, therefore, one hundred and fifty-eight (158). But since the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Republican President are also Members of Parliament, this brings the total to one hundred and sixty (160).
In an effort to bring Parliament closer to the people, The Speaker has relaxed the requirements for members of the public to visit Parliament. It is not necessary for individuals who wish to observe the proceedings of Parliament to seek advance permission in writing. All that is required is for visitors to come with some form of identification (passport, National Registration Card, e.t.c) and after passing through the security screens, they are issued with visitors’ passes for one day.
Those wishing to visit Parliament in groups or educational tours are required to put their request in writing to the Clerk of the National Assembly. After the request has been acceded to, the Public Relations Department is responsible for conducting group visitors around Parliament Buildings. There is adequate vehicle parking space for visitors in front of the main entrance to the main building.
Visitors to Parliament coming to observe Parliament proceedings sit in the Public galleries a floor above the floor of the house, to the left and right side of the Speaker’s Chair, giving a bird’s eye view of the proceedings below. Only Mr. Speaker’s guests are privileged to sit in the Speaker’s and Diplomatic Galleries, while members of the Press are allocated the Press Gallery.
Dress Code for Visitors
Visitors are required to dress formally and in a manner befitting the dignity of the House. Males are required to be in long or short sleeved shirt and tie while females should wear a formal dress or skirt suit or chitenge suit, short or long sleeved, with the hemline going below the knee. Recognized official uniforms such as school uniforms are also allowed.
Visitors in the galleries are not allowed to participate in the debates in any way at all, whether by gestures, clapping, ululating or by any activity that would disturb the proceedings in the chamber. All cell phones are supposed to be switched off, including any electronic equipment, such as alarm clocks, that emit sounds likely to divert the attention of the House.
Visitors in the galleries are required to rise to their feet each time the speaker’s procession enters or leaves the chamber.