Minister of Local Government and Housing, Charles Banda, has statutory power to suspend Mayors and Council Chairpersons together with Councillors, says Governance and Legal Advisor, Isaac Mwanza.
Mr. Mwanza, who together with Lusaka Deputy Mayor Christopher Shakafuswa, had petitioned the Constitutional Court in 2018 stated that on pages 25 to 27 of the Judgment, the Court made it clear that Mayors and Council Chairpersons are also councillors.
He said Section 56 (b) of the Local Government Act No. 2 of 2019 to suspend expressly empowers the Minister to suspend “all councillors of the council from performing all of their functions as councillors and empower the Local Government Administrator to discharge all the functions of the council.”
In 2018, the Constitutional Court decided that chiefs who get elected to councils, ward based councillors and elected Mayors are all councillors regardless of the manner in which they are elected.
Minister of Local Government and Housing Charles Banda yesterday suspended all councillors from Lusaka City Council and Kitwe City Council from performing all of their functions to pave way for the National Government to conduct an administrative investigation into the affairs of the two Councils.
Responding to questions whether the suspension of councillors from performing their functions amount to violating Article 152(2) of the Constitution which prohibits the national Government from interfering with or compromising a local authority’s ability or right to perform its functions, Mr Mwanza said the Constitution makes it clear that in performance of their functions, councillors are accountable to the National Government.
Article 156 of the Constitutional states that councillors shall be collectively and individually accountable to the national Government and residents in their wards councillors and districts, for the performance of their functions.
“What the National Government, through the Minister, has done by suspending the performance of functions by all councillors, who include mayors of Kitwe and Lusaka is part of the accountability measures which the Constitution require of councillors to their national Government. It is not interference at all,” said Mr. Mwanza.
Mr. Mwanza has however called on the Ministry of Local Government to expedite the process of inquiring into the alleged land scams in Kitwe, Lusaka and other parts of the country and report back to residents in wards and districts as they are stakeholders in holding their councillors accountable.