The Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CiSCA) has urged Lusaka residents not forget what to expect from the Patriotic Front (PF) winning candidate Miles Sampa in the just ended mayoral elections.
In a statement released to the media addressing a number of issues, CiSCA said that Lusaka residents and the media must ensure that the Mr Sampa is hel accountable and that his promises must be fulfilled in 100 days,, by the 5th November 2018.
During the elections, Mr promised to to establish a 24/7 toll free call centre, decongest traffic on Lusaka roads, introduce free WI-FI in bus stops, public places, airports and train stations, introduce town hall meetings, provide title deeds to all house owners in Lusaka, provide conducive markets and trading spaces and make the local authority financially viable.
Below is the full statement
The Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CiSCA) has called this press briefing to share our reflections on the state of the nation with fellow citizens and those charged with the responsibility to promote citizens’ wellbeing.
It goes without saying that when citizens relent in their civic and constitutional duty of holding those in power accountable, then the sovereignty that lies in and with the people as enshrined in our supreme law – the Constitution – is rendered useless. It is for this reason that we continue to call upon citizens not to get fatigued or despair in actively participating in public affairs including providing constructive criticism to those in power.
When it comes to accountability, citizens must not forget the campaign promises made by those aspiring to public office as these constitute a social contract between citizens and elected leaders. We wish to encourage the media to also help the general public to reflect on the campaign promises made by various political parties in order to inform public opinion. For instance, in the just ended mayoral by-election in Lusaka, residents of the seven constituencies under the Lusaka municipality cast their vote on the basis of promises from all the candidates.
While congratulating all the political parties and candidates that participated in this election for expressing their aspirations to make Lusaka a habitable and better place for all, and the PF in particular for emerging victorious, Lusaka residents should not forget what to expect from the winning Mayor in the first 100 days of being in power as promised. We take this opportunity to encourage Lusaka residents not to relent in reminding the mayor to:
i. Establish a 24/7 toll free call centre;
ii. Decongest traffic on Lusaka roads;
iii. Introduce free WI-FI in bus stops, public places, airports and train stations;
iv. Introduce town hall meetings;
v. Provide title deeds to all house owners in Lusaka;
vi. Provide conducive markets and trading spaces;
vii. Make the local authority financially viable;
All these promises must be fulfilled in 100 days, that is, by the 5th November 2018.
While CiSCA shares the common belief that democracy is an expensive undertaking, it is our view that this does entail that it must be a wasteful project. It is important that as a nation, we save as much resources as possible whenever we can in order to increase our level of investment in the delivery of social services for improved quality of life of our citizens. In our view, cutting off by-elections could free up significant amounts of financial resources that could be channelled towards improving social service delivery. We cannot afford the luxury of by-elections when majority of citizens do not have basic things such as clean and safe drinking water which they are entitled to have as part of their rights.
It is sad that as a country we missed an opportunity to address the issue of by-elections during the last constitution review process when the process was hijacked by the PF partisan interests.
The mischief of by-elections could have been and indeed can be cured by adopting a proportional representation system for the positions of Member of Parliament as well as in the local government system. As CiSCA, we hold the view that such a system would not only significantly reduce resource wastage but would also promote national unity. It would allow respective political parties to fill any position which becomes vacant by a person from within their own rank and file using their own internal systems whenever and wherever such a vacancy occurs without having to hold a costly by- election as the case is today.
The current system opens a way to a number of mischiefs including abuse of public resources by those in power as seen when ministers go to campaign using government vehicles, by-elections in our country where the police service is impotent against criminal elements in political party colours are also a source of political violence and loss of productive time as the case was with a holiday declared during the mayoral election. The less than 16% voter turnout in the just ended Lusaka Mayoral election clearly shows the citizens are getting fatigued by these by-elections. We therefore propose that the proposed constitution review process must take into account the need to put to an end by-election for MPs and officials in the local government system just like it was done for the Presidency in the current constitution.
Constitutional Gaps – Mayor
The just ended mayoral election has once again exposed the limitations and weaknesses inherent in our constitution which was hurriedly enacted to the exclusion of the many progressive issues submitted to the various constitutional review commissions by Zambian citizens. It does not make sense to have a full time Mayor or Council Chairperson as the case is in the current constitution without matching the position with executive power to run a municipality.
While the constitution provides for the full-time mayor and council chairperson, the executive functions of municipalities remain with the Town Clerk and Council Secretaries as the case may be. It was clear even from the mayoral candidates’ manifestoes that it was very difficult for them to clearly outline what they could realistically do and deliver once elected because in as far as the law is concerned; the duties and powers of the Mayor and Council Chairpersons are more political and ceremonial than executive. It is our view that unless the office of the Mayor is given executive powers, the principles of devolved local governance system as provided for in Article 147 of our Constitution cannot be attained. It is also our view that an Executive Mayor would be made to account deliverable of a local government system as provided in article 151 and 152 of the 2016 amended constitution. As it is today, the objects of the local government system as outlined in the constitution are progressive however; the realisation of the same in reality is unattainable as no one can be held accountable for the same. This explains why we still have a situation where spaces for commerce including markets, bus stations and boards are filled with carders and sympathizers of the party in power at any given time against the spirit of the constitution.
CiSCA is concerned with the decline in the number of citizens who turn up to vote both in national and local elections. The less than 16% voter turnout as witnessed in the by-elections held on 26th July 2018 must be a source of concern to all political parties as without citizen participation in elections, democracy is a mockery. There are many things we can say about low voter turnout but what is clear is that citizens are slowly losing confidence both in the electoral process as well as in the political leadership. At the rate things are going, we may wake up one day and find that there is 10% voter turnout. Although a winner will be declared, he/she would lack the legitimacy that comes from voters’ endorsement through voting.
This situation calls for reflection among the political leadership to ensure that citizens are incentivized and energized to participate in choosing their proffered leaders by way of voting. The mismatch between the improvement in the well-being of voters and those voted into public office, poor public service delivery and political violence are some of the issues that deter citizens from freely and willingly participation in elections.
Accountability of the three arms of government
Ladies and gentlemen, as CiSCA we believe that there are attempts by some arms of government and state institutions to create an environment in the country where citizens are afraid to question the omissions and commissions of state institutions and officers. This situation is dictatorship in a democratic state because it means that state institutions would not be accountable to anyone but themselves. This is unacceptable. As a matter of principle and constitutionality, all state institutions derive their mandate from the people of Zambia and the people of Zambia have constitutional right hold state institutions to account. This is expressly provided for in Article 5 of the 2016 Zambian amended constitution. This principle applies to all state institutions without exception.
We wish to call upon officers in state institutions to ensure that their conduct is above board and question especially when dealing with issues that border on citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms such as free speech, right to assembly and association. We would have wanted to address this issue in detail but we are also aware that some of the issues we would have loved to speak to are before the courts of law.
CiSCA Core Team