By Nalucha Nganga Ziba Country Director, ActionAid Zambia
As Action Aid Zambia, we are delighted the newly elected government has considered the following under the need for Natural Resource Governance and Climate Change. The inaugural speech by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia Mr. Hakainde Hichilema highlighted several critical areas giving hope to the future of the Zambian society as noted below:
Zero tolerance to corruption
We welcome the commitment of the President and his government to zero tolerance for corruption. There cannot be true and sustainable political and socio-economic emancipation for the country in the presence of corruption. Corruption is not just a development issue but also a social issue as it aggravates inequality and injustice and undermines stability. Envisioning to attain a just Zambia and economic development with high corrupt levels is a far-fetched dream. We take into recognition that the president indicates his commitment to prudent and effective utilization of public resources. As such, the new government should have a two-pronged approach to the fight against corruption. Firstly, it should strengthen the institutional and technical capacity of law enforcement agencies to do their work and ensure that all allegations of corruption, are thoroughly investigated and prosecuted where tangible evidence is available. Secondly the government should place a premium on corruption prevention by undertaking reforms to seal all loopholes both in the public and private sector which hitherto have been exploited by corrupt persons. This will entail a detailed systems audits as well as organisational assessment. Further, legal reform will be necessary to strengthen and domesticate all anti-corruption laws in line with the international and regional conventions.
We have noted that the President has acknowledged that public debt remains a big challenge that has negatively affected the national budget as half of the national budget goes to debt servicing therefore reducing the country’s ability to invest in production and provision of public services. ActionAid Zambia is therefore calling on the new government to undertake a vigorous public debt audit to establish the scale and nature of our public debt. The new government should urgently call for a multi-sector public debt indaba to discuss possible solutions to our current public debt problem. They must also commit to greater public debt transparency especially regarding Zambia Chinese loans which remain opaque. We also expect the new government to commit to the reforms and/or amendment of the public debt legal framework like the Loans and Guarantees Authorization Act and other related legislations to improve Zambia’s primary legislation. This will improve transparency and accountability and hence limiting the current debt problem which is crowding out public service financing.
Rule of law, servant leadership and democracy
We also welcome the commitment of the President to servant leadership, upholding the rule of law, and respecting and safeguarding of human rights and democratic principles. This is key in the promotion of order as well as transparency and accountability. Additionally, rule of law will discourage the engagement of young people in negative political practices such as perpetrating electoral violence which was becoming a norm in our society. Respect of the rule of law, safeguarding of human rights and democratic principles are also key in attracting and securing of both local and international investment as we undertake the path of economic recovery. The UPND needs to develop a governance and accountability reform process to address multiple issues to successfully achieve a clean and effective government. The commitment to govern the country based on the rule of law is key as it will allow every citizen to participate in the governance of the country effectively without fear of being victimized by the political opponents. ActionAid Zambia ‘s call is to ensure women and youth are among the members of parliament that will be nominated to promote the inclusivity of the marginalized groups in the governance of the country. ActionAid Zambia further calls on the UPND government to domesticate and ensure that the treaties that are not only signed be ratified through the appropriate national legislature with the aim to promote human rights and liberty among all the Zambian people.
Civic participation and respect for human rights
It is gratifying to note that the UPND was founded on the principle that ensures respect for human rights. This commitment was further emphasized by the President that under his government the UPND and its alliance members will ensure there is clear separation of power among the three arms of government (the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature). Our call as ActionAid Zambia is that UPND government and its alliance members will show commitment to further strengthen the judiciary to allow them to conduct their mandate effectively without due influence from the Executive and political power. While ActionAid Zambia notes that the incoming government has also shown commitment to ensure the impendence of the state institution to carry out its mandate, we call on the government ensure the appointment modality of commission is further strengthen allow these commissioners from the different state institution work effectively.
As promoters of social justice, we further welcome the President’s commitment to the promotion of the freedom of press. This is a commitment to the promotion of citizens democratic right for citizens to freely express against social injustices and engagements on social accountability with elected leaders and also promises to review and amend regressive laws such as the Public Order Act and Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act.
Call for peace, inclusion and unity
The values on peace and unity are key in taking the country from one level to another, there high correlation between economic growth and peace and unity. This even more important especially that in recent times Zambia has seen an increase in hate speech, tribalism, regionalism and pockets of violence. The President declared that sanity would be restored and ruling people on political grounds will not be tolerated. He declared that the ‘One Zambia, One Nation’ slogan shall be our way of life regardless of race and ethnicity and that there would be no tolerance for exclusion and differences in tribe will never be used for political mileage. He stated that diversity would be reflected in the soon to be announced Cabinet and there would be no selectivity of development based on regionalism; there are more issues in the country that unite us than divide us. The President recognized the significant role played by young people in the elections which is a positive as young people of Zambia have been striving for recognition as key players in the political, economic and social development of Zambia. This affirmation is a positive as it signifies the president and his government promise/dedication to youth inclusion and participation with youth being the largest demographic dividend currently and indeed their contribution signifies increased players in development. The President also recognized the high levels of youth unemployment and that it was on top of the government agenda and thus will be aggressively address creation of jobs for all citizens, especially young people. This we welcome and look forward to as it promotes economic justice and equal distribution of resources to the citizens and will remove the erosion of income from the few to the masses as well as support Gender Responsive Public Services.
We recognize the commitment to restoring macro-economic stability and promoting growth of the economy by specifically paying special attention to lowering the fiscal deficit, reducing public debt and restoring social and market confidence. The President also recognizes key specific sectors for growth and reducing poverty such as agriculture, mining, energy, financial services, tourism, technology, health and education. We look forward to seeing policy and legal reforms that will be undertaken by the government in the above respective sectors in the quest to restore macro-economic stability and growth. We equally look forward to the pronounced local ownership and participation by locals in the mining sector. We welcome as it promotes alternatives to employment especially for the young people who are mostly in the formal sector. We look forward to see the new government investment policy in the above sectors accordingly and equitable outcomes such as enhanced gender responsive services. Furthermore, we expect that the President and his government to prioritize investment in the agriculture sector as the next best sector after mining in achieving economic growth. We agree with the President that agriculture production must be enhanced by adequate provisions of agricultural extension and research services, market access, value addition and lowering the cost of inputs. Additionally, as one of the key sectors to Zambia’ economy and largest contributor Zambia’s foreign reserve the current challenges, government/Investor standstills and inefficiencies must also be addressed in the mining sector. We expect the new government to initiate a stable tax regime and mining policies.
Climate Change Mitigation Measures
ActionAid Zambia is expectant that the new leadership will consider and execute strengthening institutions such as the Disaster Mitigation Unit and Humanitarian efforts from the dire and negative impact’s climate change has had on the Zambian people whose livelihoods solely depend on Natural Resources. This can be attained by finally passing the climate change bill as law to provide legal framework on addressing the negative impacts of climate change.
Build a green economy
This will help environmental efforts aimed at reducing environmental risks which Zambia has faced from the degazetting of forest reserves for mining and commercial activities in Protected Areas and Game Management Reserves. The roadmap for Zambia towards a green economy will protect it from ecological scarcities and ensuring sustainable development without degrading the environment. We expect this to be highlighted by sustainable mining practices from the extractive sector and creation of green jobs is expected for the Zambian youths.
ActionAid Zambia has noticed the need to strengthen institutions and increase manpower of the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) which will allow the extensive and independent execution of its role to the responsibility of conserving Zambia’s vast natural resources and protect its endangered ecosystems that support the vulnerable livelihoods, health, and wellbeing, from now and in the future. The need for transparency as well in its EIA processes will have to be fair and transparent to the public. The newly elected government is expected to clearly demonstrate and adhere to a clear policy road map for increased budget allocations towards environmental protection, recreation, tourism and disaster mitigation and management above 1% of the annual budgetary allocation.
Land Resource Management
We acknowledge the President address on the issue of policy direction to be in place concerning a transparent policy framework in land administration and management. This is a great move as this will promote equitable access to land for all citizens and with the potential of enhancing women’s Land rights as well. It is our expectation that women and youths shall be at the centre stage to own property at a tender age through government support.
Agriculture support and extension services
Support towards agriculture extension services is a welcomed move as it will boost Zambia’s agriculture production considering that 70 % of farmer producers are found in rural areas where 80 % are engaged in agriculture. Our expectation on this is the recruitment of more agriculture extension officers that will increase agriculture efficiency and food security in the agriculture value chain. Zambian have for a long time yearned for lower the cost of agriculture production, increase market access within Zambia and beyond borders
, enhance value addition will make Zambia more competitive against other products in the region.
As we wait for announcement of the new government, the president should think of how he will fully embrace the youth, be inclusive and ensure that Zambia’s development and growth trajectory is anchored on a strong intergenerational consensus. As Action Aid Zambia, we are open and keen to partner the new government in taking the country forward and address the most pressing challenges that the nation faces. In conclusion we would like to congratulate Mr. Hakainde Hichilema and Madam Mutale Nalumango once again on their election and ascendancy of the Presidency and Vice Presidency of this country respectively. We look forward to their socioeconomic policies that will prioritize poverty eradication and ending socioeconomic injustices.