By C.K. Chanda
Since independence on October 24th, 1964, Zambia cannot boast of having created a wholly owned political and economic system. A system which embraces the values, traditions, and aspirations of its people.
The country has lagged behind in most sectors largely because of trying to adopt and adapt to foreign systems. In the process, Zambians have been left bewildered about what it is that we truly stand for as a nation. Successive leaders have failed to provide meaningful direction in developing a system which is easily adaptable, manageable, and workable in the context of our circumstances.
Decades have passed us by with no meaningful progress toward a well designed, less complex, and user-friendly system. This lack of a home-bred system has placed serious constraints on efforts to alleviate poverty in the country. A typical example is our government structure. This remains largely a creation of the at-independence constitution, some 45 odd years ago. And instead of creating multi-pronged institutions and empowering them to perform independently, we have only succeeded in creating more institutions which simply duplicate the works of older ones, which in turn puts economic pressure on our government to fund them and pay employee benefits.
This trend has resulted in more bureaucracy with little forward progress on the ideals they were established for. The existence of some of these structures has led to massive abuse of public resources by those with the consent to govern, at the expense of the humble and patriotic members of our society. It is right to point out that, any attempt to adapt to a foreign or alien ideal spells disaster because different regions, countries, and their people have differing and divergent needs, wants, resources, and experiences.
Having highlighted some major barriers to our progress, it is only prudent to propose some policy shifts in the creation and execution of a Zambian system.
Firstly, the structure of government. It is a well known fact that the size of our government is too large for a country which does not generate enough domestic resources. It would be a wise move to do away with positions such as Deputy Minister, Provincial Minister, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Deputy Director, and perhaps, Deputy high Commissioner. These positions have no relevance in our government system and only serve to compete for resources with more functional positions. Not only that, these positions simply create a lazy atmosphere as work for one person is being split between two. The amount of resources expended on these ceremonial positions could rightly be channeled to more important sectors of the economy.
Secondly, it is time that Zambia reviewed its need to have so many embassies around the world. The review should include the roles that these establishments have played in enhancing political, economic, and social progress for our people. Again, it is not necessary to have embassies scattered around the globe which do not live up to their or the government’s international mission statement. The question I beg to ask is, Is it really necessary to maintain embassies in countries within the same region? For instance, why should we have an embassy in Namibia and one in Zimbabwe as well? Why can’t we as a country establish embassies based on regions? We can have an embassy in Namibia which will cater for countries surrounding it. This is a computer age and so much can and has been accomplished via the internet. Does this sound like a cost saving measure? Sure it does.
Thirdly, Zambia can consolidate the operations of the DEC and ACC. Create separate units under one umbrella, empower them financially, and leave them to do their jobs independent of political manipulation and abuse. Do we really need to have these two institutions operating independently? I am sure that this can be done if we have the right mindset, priorities, and the will to do it. Mahatma Ghandi once said, “If I have the belief that I can do it, I will surely acquire the capacity to do it, even if I may not have it at the beginning”. So all we need as Zambians is to have the belief that we can change our way of running government if only we believe.
I leave the rest to my fellow patriotic Zambians to magnify and ponder. Any progressive ideas that anyone else may have, for or against, will certainly enhance the possibilities of creating a system which will work for us and make us better off tomorrow. I salute you my fellow Zambians.