Taking an oath of office should not be necessary if people can be trusted to act without compromising themselves and others. However, the opposite is often true that people can only be trusted upto a point, especially when in positions of power.

The law, or constitution, typically acts as a cloak of protection for those in public office, in the execution of duty. The reason is not to create careless impunity, but rather to ensure that, any audit will not find government liable or unable to act with exception in obedience to the tlaw. That in the final analysis, any oath of office will be honoured.

An oath is engrained in the law as an essential component of the operation of high (and sensitive) public offices. This is understood and expected. In fact, most of these offices personify the law and empower the office bearers with powers necessary to act in the highest public interest. It is not rare for office holders to infuse their own personalities into their work, and better if the personality is attached to appreciable levels of integrity.

Of the various oaths in the Constitution of Zambia, the Oath of Allegiance appears the most obvious and simultaneously inexcusable if disservice to the public occurs. It is obvious because institutional citizenry and unity is important if people must work together to achieve the intended goals and objectives. Public officials must hold allegiance to their functions without excuse, which inextricably means that they are granted constitutional mandate. The Oath of Allegiance can be inexcusable if the constitution is flawed, or when a constitutional office holder creates functions that answer only to them outside the law such as an impromptu investigative agency.

The Oath of Allegiance is to the Republican President firstly, which should be understood as the presidency – meaning that the allegiance is for the office than person per se. Secondly, or thereafter, allegiance is to the constitution. This dichotomy is difficult to achieve in practice. For instance, a president cannot make decisions without personal reflection or opinion within the ambits of the information they are provided. This oath is especially essential for military and security officials. Few leaders will wilfully lead their nations into wars for personal reasons, ill-judgement can be pardoned perhaps.

The oath cautions functionaries to assess the head of state with accurate and honest information on all matters pertaining. When a president is misinformed, it is not rare to find a head of state or government refer to the information they were provided. This is why most bureaucracies build shields around their sources of information such as their intelligence institutions and provide immunity to decision makers, that is, the heads of state.

Such governments understand the distinction between a political case (persecution) and a legal case (prosecution) against former heads of government, in the aftermath. That is why enquires logically precede court cases so that a proper legal basis is formed for any prosecution.

For example, Tony Blair was questioned on live Television during the Chilcot Inquiry into why Britain joined the invasion of Iraq. The inquiry ultimately found that the ‘The legal basis for the war was “far from satisfactory.” Furthermore, that the former Prime Minister misled the public regards the information he presented as cause to invade another sovereign nation. The most prominent observation is that a legal basis was established against the constitutional office (the premiership) and the office bearer – the person.

The weight of the investigation did not start from, or anchor on prima facie personal opinions. In a real bureaucracy, the basis of any investigation can be brought back to an enquiry or court, if subsequent actions border on severe illegality. This is also why the prime minister in that case was said to have been unjustified. When accusations around constitutional offices are made, those accusations and accusers must not be above audit; otherwise, constitutional offices will subsequently be used for accusatory advantage to discredit perceived opponents.


Related Articles

Back to top button