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Constitution of Rhodesia
Created 1 - 25 February 1705
Ratified 1 May 1705
Location National Museum of Rhodesia, Salisbury, Tatelandshire
Authors Preliminary Congress of the Parliament of the Rhodesian Kingdom
Signatories King Edward I, Thomas Northmere, Gordon Overton, William Rightman, and 47 other members of the Preliminary Council
Purpose To establish the Parliament of Rhodesia

The Constitution of Rhodesia, commonly called just the Constitution, is the supreme law under which the Government of Rhodesia operates. The constitution was first drafted by Gordon Overton at the Preliminary Congress of the Parliament of the Rhodesian King, better known as the February Congress, held in the city of Salisbury, on February 1st, 1705. Fifty members of the Preliminary Council represented the collective peoples of Rhodesia, which included the famous Thomas Northmere and William Rightman, whom, with Overton, are considered to be the founding fathers of the Rhodesian parliamentary system. After the document was ratified by the Preliminary Council, it was given royal assent by King Edward I, the constitution was implemented on May 1st, 1705, and came into full effect with the elections held that November.

It is the world's oldest constitution still in continuous use, although it has been modified several times since with the gradual reduction of the powers of the Monarch. Although it is recognised with having established the contemporary Rhodesian government system and parliament, the date of true Rhodesian self governance began in 1649, with the establishment of the Kingdom of Rhodesia proper.

Text

Preamble

An Act to constitute the Parliament of the Rhodesian Kingdom, Twenty-Fifth of February, the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Five, Anno Domini.

Whereas the People of the Kingdom of Rhodesia, humbly relying on the blessings of He the Almighty, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Unified Kingdom under the Crown of the Rhodesian Kingdom and under the constitution hereby established:

Be it therefore enacted by the Kings’s Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in this present Preliminary Council assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

  1. This Act May be cited as the Constitution of Rhodesia, without citation as Act, being supreme law of the land, hence instead thereby referred to as Document.
  2. The provisions of this Document referring to the King shall extend to His Majesty’s heirs and successors in the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Rhodesia.
  3. It shall be henceforth declared that with this Document shall the King, upon ratification through representatives present, institute this Document by the virtue of popular support upon this year in which the Document is thus given the assent of His Most Excellent Majesty the King.
  4. In order of name shall thus:
    1. "The Kingdom" shall be established under which the name of shall henceforth become the Kingdom of Rhodesia, with the present Lands of the Crown by that name to become the subsequent provinces of North Albert and South Albert. Upon institution of this act shall those provinces become unitary authorities under the government of this henceforth referred to as the Kingdom.
    2. “The Provinces” shall mean such of the Lands of the Crown of North Albert, South Albert, Mereland, Sunderland, New Lowland, New Ayrland, and the Outerisles, as for the time being are parts of the Kingdom, and such colonies or territories as may be admitted into or established by the Kingdom as Provinces; and each of such parts of the Kingdom shall be called “a Province”.
    3. “Original Provinces” shall mean such Provinces as are parts of the Kingdom at its establishment.
  5. This Document, as approved by His Most Excellent Majesty, henceforth declares that all justification under which the present is done is done by virtue of the establishment of a Parliament of Rhodesia under which from His Majesty's Government of Rhodesia shall hence derive.
  6. By virtue of popular representation it is thus supported that this Document shall be binding upon all the courts, judges, and people of every Province hereby established as apart of this Kingdom; and the laws of the Kingdom shall be in force on all Rhodesian ships, the King’s ships of war excepted, whose first port of clearance and whose port of destination are in the Kingdom.
  7. It is through the Monarch of the Rhodesia, or for any successor of such His Most Excellent Majesty King Edward, First of His Name, of the House of Rhodes, Inheritors of the House of Tudor, that His Majesty's Government of Rhodesia is thus established, and by the right of the people of Rhodesia does His Majesty declare that these people hence referenced, are forever and thusly free in terms of their national sovereignty by the provisions of this Document thus established for their own self betterment and self determination by which it is thus declared.
  8. Hereby in Trust of this Constitution of Rhodesia shall the people respect the authority of the crown in trust that it provides, protects, and insures the provisions of tranquility, equality, happiness, and the Kingdom hence mentioned for all citizens of Rhodesia.
  9. Upon by which do these, the people of Rhodesia, grant their right of power to the King of Rhodesia and His Successors, does His Most Excellent Majesty hereby declare these people who have hence granted him their right of sovereignty declare them as sovereign in their own right of freehold, thought, and pursuit of such which insures their happiness, thus grants these responsibilities to His Majesty's Government of Rhodesia, by which this Constitution shall hence proclaim.
  10. The Constitution of the Kingdom shall be as follows:

Chapter I

Part I, the Governor-General

Section I
  1. The legislative power of the Kingdom shall be vested in a Unitary Parliament, which shall consist of the King and a House of Commons, and which is herein-after called "The House of Commons," the "House," “The Parliament,” or “The Parliament of the Kingdom.”
Section II
  1. A Governor-General appointed by the King shall be His Majesty’s representative in the Parliament, and shall have and may exercise in the Parliament during the King’s pleasure, but subject to this Constitution, such powers and functions of the King as His Majesty may be pleased to assign to him.
Section III
  1. There shall be payable to the King out of the Consolidated Revenue fund of the Kingdom, for the salary of the Governor-General, an annual sum which, until the Parliament otherwise provides, shall be ten thousand pounds, which, through process of the Parliament, can be increased or decreased upon the issuance of such decrees relating to the worth of the pound.
  2. The salary of the Governor-General shall not be altered during his continuance in office.
Section IV
  1. The provisions of this Constitution relating to the Governor-General extend and apply to the Governor-General for the time being, or such person as the King may appoint to administer the Government of the Kingdom; but no such person shall be entitled to receive any salary from the Kingdom in respect of any other office during his administration of His Majesty's Government of the Kingdom.
Section V
  1. The Governor-General may appoint such times for holding the sessions of the Parliament as he thinks fit, and may also from time to time, by Proclamation or otherwise, prorogue the Parliament, and may in like manner dissolve the House of Commons.
  2. After any general election the Parliament shall be summoned to meet not later than thirty days after the day appointed for the return of the writs.
  3. The Parliament shall be summoned to meet not later than ten months after the establishment of such a Parliament.
Section VI
  1. There shall be a session of the Parliament once at least in every month, so that one month shall not intervene between the last sitting of the Parliament in one session and its first sitting in the next session.

Part II, the House of Commons

Section VII
  1. The House of Commons shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Kingdom, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, in relation to the population of the nation as defined by a Census taken upon the year of election.
  2. The number of members chosen in the several Province shall be in proportion to the respective members of their people, and shall, until the Parliament otherwise provides, be determined, whenever necessary, in the following manner:
    1. A quota shall be ascertained by dividing the number of the people of the Kingdom, the Census, as shown by the latest statistics of the Kingdom, by the number of people for which a representational value of the population is thus ascertained as to being the number by which the people of the nation shall be represented in proportion to the counties which make up those Provinces by virtue of their respective populations as thereby established with the Census:
    2. The number of members to be chosen in each Province shall be determined by dividing the number of people of the Province, as shown by the latest statistics of the Kingdom, by the quota; and if on such division there is a remainder greater than one-half of the quota, one more member shall be chosen in the Kingdom.
Section VIII
  1. Subject to this Constitution, the House of Commons may make laws for increasing or diminishing the number of the members of the House of Commons.
Section IX
  1. Every House of Commons shall continue for five years from the first meeting of the House, and no longer, but may be sooner dissolved by the Governor-General.
Section X
  1. Until the House of Commons of the Kingdom otherwise provides, the House of Commons shall be responsible for determining the divisions by which the Provinces and Counties are represented within the government through this House of Commons.
  2. A division shall not be formed out of parts of different States.
  3. In the absence of other provision each County shall be one electorate.
Section XI
  1. Until the House otherwise provides, but subject to this Constitution, the qualification of electors shall be as follows:
    1. The elector must be proficient in the English language as determined by tests of linguistic skill.
    2. The elector must have a basic knowledge and understanding of politics as determined by a voters registration.
    3. The elector must provide proof of residence within the Kingdom of Rhodesia, or any lands hence added to these original lands, or any successor states which still bear this Constitution.
    4. The elector must be of eighteen years in age and have been living in the Kingdom for a minimum of five years.
    5. The elector must be a naturalised citizen of the Kingdom of Rhodesia and a subject of the King.
Section XII
  1. The Governor-General in Council may cause writs to be issued for general elections of members of the House of Commons.
  2. After the first general election, the writs shall be issued within ten days from the expiry of a House of Commons or from the proclamation of a dissolution thereof.
Section XIII
  1. Whenever a vacancy happens in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister shall issue his writ for the election of a new member, or if there is no Prime Minister or if he is absent from the Kingdom the Governor-General in Council may issue the writ.
Section XIV
  1. Until the Parliament otherwise provides, the qualifications of a member of the House of Commons shall be as follows:
    1. He must be of the full age of eighteen years, and must be an elector entitled to vote at the election of members of the House of Commons, or a person qualifies to become such elector, and must have been for five years at the least a resident within the limits of the Kingdom as existing at the time when he was chosen:
    2. He must be a subject of the King, either natural-born or for at least five years naturalised under a law of the Kingdom, or of a Land which has become or becomes a part of the Kingdom, or of a Province of the Kingdom, or of a County of a Province.
Section XV
  1. The House of Commons shall, before proceeding to the dispatch of any other business, choose a member to be the Prime Minister of the House, and as often as the office of Prime Minister becomes vacant the House shall again choose a member to be the Prime Minister.
  2. The Prime Minister shall cease to hold his office if he ceases to be a member. He may be removed from office by a vote of the House, or he may resign his office or his seat by writing addressed to the Governor-General.
Section XVI
  1. Before or during any absence of the Prime Minister from a session of the House, the House of Commons may choose a member to perform his duties of the House in his absence.
Section XVII
  1. A member may by writing addressed to the Prime Minister, or to the Governor-General if there is no Prime Minister or if the Prime Minister is absent from the Kingdom, resign his place, which there-upon shall become vacant.
Section XVIII
  1. The place of a member shall become vacant if for two consecutive months of any session of the House he, without the permission of the House, fails to attend the House.
Seciton XIX
  1. Until the House otherwise provides, the presence of at least one-third of the whole number of the members of the House of Commons shall be necessary to constitute a meeting of the House for the exercise of its powers.
Section XX
  1. Questions arising in the House of Commons shall be determined by a majority of votes other than that of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister shall not vote unless the numbers are equal, and then he shall have a casting vote.
Section XXI
  1. No adult person who has or acquires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of Commons shall, while the right continues, be prevented by any law of the Kingdom from voting at elections for the House of Commons of the Kingdom.
Section XXII
  1. Every member of the House of Commons shall before taking his seat make and subscribe before the Governor-General or His Majesty, or some person authorised by him, an oath or affirmation of allegiance in the form set forth in the schedule to this Constitution.
Section XXIII
  1. A member of the House of Commons shall be incapable or being chosen or of sitting as any other member of the House of Commons.
Section XXIV
  1. Any person who:
    1. Is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights and privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power, or:
    2. Is attained of treason, or has been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offence punishable under the law of the Kingdom by imprisonment for one year or longer, or:
    3. Is an undischarged bankrupt or insolvent, or:
    4. Holds any office of profit under the Crown, or any pension payable during the pleasure of the Crown out of any revenues of the Kingdom, or:
    5. Has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Kingdom otherwise than as a member and in common with the other being members of an incorporated company with the other members of an incorporated company consisting of more than twenty-five persons:
  2. Shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a member of House of Commons.
  3. Clause 1.4 and Clause 1.5 shall not apply to any former member of any Public Service of the Kingdom under the Crown who is not wholly an employee of the Crown or of the Public Service of the Kingdom, in so much as receiving pension from the Crown under resignation of their previous post.
Section XXV
  1. If a member of the House of Commons:
    1. Becomes subject to any of the disabilities in the last preceding section, or:
    2. Takes the benefit, whether by assignment, composition, or otherwise, of any law relating to bankrupt or insolvent debtors, or:
    3. Directly or indirectly takes or agrees to take any fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Kingdom, or for services rendered in the House of Commons to any person:
  2. His place shall thereupon become vacant.
Section XXVI
  1. Until the House of Commons otherwise provides, any person declared by this Constitution to be incapable of sitting as a member of the House of Commons shall, for every day on which he so sits, be liable to pay the sum of one hundred pounds to any person who sues for it in any court of competent jurisdiction.
Section XXVII
  1. Until the House of Commons otherwise provides, each member of the House of Commons shall receive an allowance of four hundred pounds a year, to be reckoned from the day on which he takes his seat.
Section XXVIII
  1. The powers, privileges, and immunities of the House of Commons, and of the members and the committees of the House, shall be such as are declared by the House as so:
    1. Members of the House of Commons shall not be arrested for criminal or civil charges, for such charges must be settled by the impeachment of the House by vote of majority under probable cause, and:
    2. Members of the House of Commons shall not be questioned or put under criticism by the House for any speech, thought, or opinion that a Member of the House of Commons may have, and:
    3. Members of the House of Commons shall not be bound to serve as the member of any jury or trial under which they do not otherwise choose to do.
  2. If any Member of the House of Commons abuses their privileges as a Member, they thus are subject to vote by the House under the abuse of their power, and as such, may lose their seat in the event of such an abuse as if it is found true by vote of the House.
Section XXIX
  1. The power of the House of Commons is hereby established as its binding ability to govern the nation in respect of the rights of the people to practice their freedoms as hereby granted within the Constitution, under the allowance of His Majesty in such a state of affairs. The House of Commons may make laws, regulations, treaties, edicts, and establishments hereby in relation to the good of the people, for which the Constitution shall henceforth stand, in so much that the institutions established by the House of Commons respect the rights of His Majesty and that of His Majesty's subjects.
Section XXX
  1. The House of Commons is hereby established as the supreme legislature of the Kingdom of Rhodesia, in so much that His Majesty has made it so that the House of Commons should serve as such, thereby being the right of the people, as granted by His Majesty, to rule themselves, in the right of which the House of Commons does stand.

Part III, the Prime Minister

Section XXXI
  1. The House of Commons shall hereby elect from within itself every year a leader of the House to become the Prime Minister of the Kingdom, who shall, in their position, lead the Kingdom as the head of His Majesty's Government within the Kingdom.
Section XXXII
  1. The Prime Minister shall appoint Ministers of the Ministries created by directive of the House of Commons, who shall sit as members of the Cabinet of the Prime Minister.
Section XXXIII
  1. The Prime Minister shall be elected every time that a new House of Commons is formed, or, in the event of a vacancy of the seat, or, in the event that the Prime Minister resigns.
Section XXXIV
  1. The Prime Minister may resign from their position at any time within their administration, by a writ to the Governor-General, or in the event that there is no Governor General, to the House of Commons.
Section XXXV
  1. The Prime Minister shall not vote as a member of the House of Commons through their seat while they are within the term of their administration, but upon the resignation of the Prime Minister from their administration, the former Prime Minister has the right to return to their seat in the House of Commons as a voting member.

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