By Henry Kyambalesa
The clause in the Mung’omba draft constitution which seeks to make provincial ministers part of the Zambian cabinet by the Commissioners to the Executive Committee of the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) chaired by Michael Mabenga can not go without comment.
There is a need to avoid making elected Mayors, for example, to report to Provincial Ministers, who are political appointees. Elected government officials are supposed to be accountable to the people who elect them, while political appointees are accountable to the appointing authorities. In other words, elected Mayors’ allegiance is to the people who elect them to public office, and the Provincial Ministers’ allegiance is to the Republican President who appoints them.
It is, therefore, not fair to have Mayors and other elected officials in local government to be answerable to both the electorate and political appointees like Provincial Ministers. There is a need to adopt what is referred to in Management lingo as the “unity of command” – which requires that each and every employee should report, or be answerable, to only one superior at any given time to forestall the potential for conflicting directives.
From Matthew 6:24 in the Holy Bible, we are advised that “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other.”
The solution to the problem of having elected government officials being answerable to political appointees lies in devolving economic and decision-making power to provinces by providing for the administration of provinces through 9 elected provincial governors, 9 elected provincial secretaries, 9 elected provincial treasurers, 9 elected provincial police commanding officers, and 72 elected district mayors.
While provincial governors need to be answerable to the voters, they should ultimately be accountable to the Parliamentary Committee on Local Governance, whose functions would need to be altered (upon the abolition of the Ministry of Local Government and Housing) to include the following:
(a) To study, report and make recommendations to the central Government through Parliament on the mandate, management and operations of provincial councils;
(b) To carry out detailed scrutiny of activities undertaken by provincial governors and provincial councils, and to make appropriate recommendations to Parliament for ultimate consideration by the central Government;
(c) To consider the annual reports and any other reports of provincial councils; and
(d) To consider any Bills referred to the Committee by Parliament and, if necessary, make recommendations to the central Government on the need to review existing policies and/or existing legislation relating to local government.
The code of conduct established by the Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of Conduct Act of 1994 for deputy ministers, Cabinet ministers and members of the National Assembly should also apply to elected local government officials.
The basic components of the devolution of economic and political power to provinces – which should be sought upon a repeal of Article 109 of the 1996 Republican constitution – should include the following:
-uniform application of the provisions of the Republican constitution and national laws and regulations in all the provinces,
-local generation and appropriation of revenues,
-unrestricted domestic trade and investment across provincial borders,
-a common national monetary policy,
-restricted external relations, and localized civil police.
There is a need for Zambians to elect leaders in their respective districts and provinces rather than have leaders like District Commissioners, Provincial Ministers and Provincial Permanent Secretaries imposed on them by the central government. Besides, such decentralization of power can make it possible for districts and provinces to function as nurseries for national leaders.