Some commentators believe that the best way to keep public order and safety is to ensure that the basic needs of citizens are met. These needs range from food, water shelter and clothing to self-esteem, self worth, freedom and dignity. These are the same needs that constitute a larger component of the Human Rights Bill, which any meaningful constitution seeks to protect.
Among many, many others, four (4) questions that may arise when we looking at the Zambia’s spending priorities in the 2018 national budget are:
- When people’s needs are not met, what course of action can they legally take to make concerns heard? Can they freely speak out or express themselves, including through peaceful protests or demonstrations?
- What other safeguards are available to ensure that their plight is addressed?
- How is The Government expected to respond to the distress calls of it citizens? and
- How well have our current governance arrangements performed in providing an environment where basic needs and human rights can be met in a dignified manner?
The amended Constitution of Zambia (2016) states that: “The people of Zambia …. UPHOLD the human rights and fundamental freedoms of every person;
“CONFIRM the equal worth of women and men and their right to freely participate in, determine and build a sustainable political, legal, economic and social order;”
Although the terms “protest” and “demonstrate” do not appear even one time in the Zambian Constitution, I believe the right to protest is a human right and a hallmark of a truly democratic society. It allows citizen to freely and effectively participate in determining the social, political and economic order in any country, Zambia included.
Ironically, in Zambia, we spend more on defence and public order and safety than we do on all social protection programmes – Social Cash Transfer Schemes, Food Security Programmes, Public Welfare Assistance Scheme, Women’s Development Programmes and Youth Empowerment Programmes – combined.
The Chart illustrates that, over the decade from 2010-2020 the social protection allocation in the National Budget will generally have been considerably lower than those to both defence and public order & safety. Moreover, it is projected to decline to an all time low in the near future (in 2019). We do not see priority in protecting the poor and vulnerable in our society.
We are essentially spending our public resources on diminishing our democracy
What is more ironic is, not only do we spend relatively little on protecting the poor and vulnerable (including women, youths and children), but we also seem to prefer to spend on public order and safety in ways that deliberately prevent women and the youth (#VivaLauraMiti #VivaPilato) from exercising their constitutional right to peacefully demonstrate against what they perceive to be immoral public financial misappropriation, corruption and social injustice. We are essentially spending our public resources on diminishing our democracy.
Why is it that Zambia spend more on public order than on social protection of the poor? Do Zambia’s decision-makers have the will to change the policy choices they are making? Or is the general feeling that the social, political and economic order are just fine, underpinned by the right choices? Is the instinct for self-preservation and protection of self-interests in Zambia likely to prevail over the greater good in determining the allocation and utilization of public resources?
I can only hope that at least one or two of Zambia’s prominent decision-makers will see this and give a thorough response that will correct my (hopefully misguided) perceptions about our poor choices (no pun intended).
By Caesar Cheelo
Senior Researcher – Macroeconomics at ZIPAR