Professor Muna Ndulo has observed that there is a serious break in the rule of law in the country and has appealed to President Edgar Lungu to appoint people in public institutions on merit.
The US-based law professor, who has been in the country the last two weeks, said there was a strong disrespect for the rule of law in Zambia, especially from those who are supposed to uphold it.
Speaking in an interview Prof Ndulo said the situation made his heart bleed, especially that the country had for a long time been viewed as a strong democracy in the region.
“I must admit that I’m troubled by what’s happening in the country; my heart bleeds. For example, I do not really understand why we do not respect freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” Prof Ndulo said
“These are fundamental rights that are enshrined, not only in our Constitution, but even in the covenants and international conventions that we have joined, including the African Charter. Based on this, people should be free to organise politically and otherwise. There’s no need to stop others from organising. So for me I must admit that I’m very concerned.”
He said every institution in the country was created by the Constitution and therefore subscribed to it.
Prof Ndulo called for constitutionalism in the country.
“The rule of law is fundamental because that means constitutionalism. But here I find it strange that today in Zambia we have people who argue that Parliament, for example, can do whatever it likes. The concept of the rule of law is about the supremacy of the Constitution; that’s what it’s about – that the Constitution is supreme to all institutions, including Parliament because Parliament is created by the Constitution, so is the Judiciary, so is the Presidency,” he said.
“Everybody is created by the Constitution. That means anything that doesn’t abide by the Constitution is invalid. Otherwise, what is the source of its legitimacy? It has no legitimacy. If your actions have no constitutional power, where are you getting that power from?”
Prof Ndulo said in a normal society there could be no development without good governance.
He said any country in the world that had developed did so because of respect for the rule of law.
“And I think we also need to realise that there’s a direct relationship between good governance and development. You cannot develop if your institutions of governance are not run properly. And that’s the evidence worldwide,” Prof Ndulo said. “Look at countries that are doing well in Africa. They are those that have no problems with human rights and good governance because good governance ensures that there’s adequate consultation in policies, in everything. Which means you minimise the chance of a wrong policy being passed because you encourage debate among citizens.”
And Prof Ndulo said in a country where deserving people were not appointed to public positions, service delivery collapses.
“And the other thing that really concerns me in this country is that when I compare to other countries such as Kenya and of course developed states, is that we don’t respect merit; we have to. People must be rewarded for their achievements and people must be selected on merit. For government institutions to run properly, they must be led by people who are competent,” said Prof Ndulo.
“This also requires clear processes of appointment to particular positions. This is critical, going forward. If we want to develop, we must respect merit in the civil service, universities and everywhere. If people who merit appreciation do not get it, they get discouraged and demotivated. In the end you have a serious collapse in public service delivery because the system is awarding wrong people.”