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Alba Iulia
Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Should Zambia’s new president fire all his predecessor’s appointees?

Columns Should Zambia’s new president fire all his predecessor’s appointees?

By Sishuwa Sishuwa

The last few days have seen mounting calls from many Zambians for President Hakainde Hichilema to dismiss senior civil servants appointed by his predecessor. Those behind these calls argue that such officials cannot be relied upon to implement the new president’s vision because they were either complicit in the worst excesses of the previous administration or are still loyal to former president Edgar Lungu.

It is easy to sympathise with these demands. Zambians generally agree that Lungu’s presidency was an unmitigated disaster, hence Hichilema’s landslide election victory last month. The reason for the temptation to remove the old administration’s appointees en masse and replace them with a new tranche of officials is clear. However, the case for a clear-out of Lungu’s networks in the executive and civil service is not clear-cut. While superficially appealing, a clear-out policy would present several dangers.

The first is practical. We know from successive Auditor General’s Office and Financial Intelligence Centre reports that large amounts of money were looted under Lungu’s rule. One of Zambia’s pressing issues is to get this money returned so that it can be spent on the many pressing issues that the country faces, but what we don’t know is where the stolen funds have gone – that is apart from the appointees and senior government officials from the Lungu era.

Unlike President Levy Mwanawasa who focused on prosecuting suspected plunderers on coming into office in 2002, Hichilema’s priority appears to be recovering stolen funds. His administration may yet press criminal charges, but with Zambia’s watchdog institutions lacking investigative capacity and its judiciary compromised, his approach for now seems to be centred on creating fast-track courts as a more effective way of getting back looted wealth. For this mission to be successful, it will require the cooperation of some of those who know where the bodies are buried, metaphorically speaking. Sacking them will not help.

The second point relates to averting potential chaos. The removal of almost all senior officials at the same time could effectively paralyse the operations of the state. However skilled new appointees might be, it would take time for them to settle in and master their briefs. Moreover, the incumbents in these positions are employees, mostly with contracts. Dismissing them at would cost the treasury a significant sum, which Zambia can ill afford. A better approach would be to either transfer the officials to different roles within the civil service or let their contracts, many of which may be set to expire soon, run down.

The third point is perhaps the most important: political party loyalty should not determine somebody’s job. I am painfully aware that under Lungu’s rule, hundreds of Zambians lost their jobs for alleged association with the then opposition United Party for National Development (UPND). The worst-affected were Zambians from Southern, Western and Northwestern provinces – a factor that might explain why voters from these areas emphatically rejected Lungu and the Patriotic Front (PF). If the UPND were to remove people from their jobs for suspected links to the political opposition, they would be no different from the PF on this score.

It is worth noting that many of those demanding the removal of PF appointees are UPND supporters who expected to be rewarded following Hichilema’s victory. They believe it is their turn to eat and that they deserve political jobs because of their loyalty. This is completely the wrong approach. The expectation of rewards based on political affiliation is one reason why Lungu’s presidency was so disastrous, and his removal is a great positive outcome for all Zambians. We must not repeat the same mistakes.

In this debate, I believe that the basic questions we must answer are: Are the people appointed by Lungu able to do their job? Are they competent, experienced, and qualified professionals? If they are, and they have not been involved in blatant criminal activities, then there is no reason to fire them. Sacking people based on their perceived political affiliation has unfortunately been commonplace in Zambia. Readers will recall that Michael Sata and the PF did the same in 2011 on replacing Rupiah Banda and the Movement for Multiparty Democracy. Are we going to do this every time there is a change of government? Who will want to work for government knowing that their employment is only secure as along as their perceived political party of choice is in power?

It is heartening to see so many Zambians engaging in the democratic process and holding Hichilema and his new administration to account. In a sense, this renewed interest in governance issues demonstrates that people are tired of the incompetence, venality, and waste that characterised Lungu’s time in office, and they want change. At the same time, it is important to bear in mind that Hichilema has been in office for less than a month. He cannot be expected to work miracles in that time.

What Hichilema does need to do, however, is to clearly communicate his approach and explain his decisions. Otherwise rumours and accusations will start to fly. In my view, the growing irritation against the continued presence of Lungu’s appointees in government has little to do with disapproval of Hichilema’s decisions by his supporters; it has much to do with the lack of clear knowledge and understanding about what is going on, why the president is taking his time, or the motivations behind some of his decisions. To avoid alienating himself from his support base and to help manage public expectations, it is important that Hichilema develops an effective public communication strategy.

23 COMMENTS

  1. At 5th paragraph Dr Shishuwa we surely should not transfer corruption and incompetence.HH should clear out these rotten thieves.

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  2. This is a two edged sword. One you have to improve competency and decency. Two, there are those who worked for you during your struggles and therefore must be rewarded and as you reward them you must sieve the chaff from grain. Not everyone will be happy but then, that’s life.

  3. The debate Sishuwa has started is healthy. Unfortunately Zambians aren’t in the mood and hv never been in the mood for a good debate. They enjoy trading trivialities and somehow derive great satisfaction from that. Political permanent secretaries who were not in the civil service and are also involved in mulpractices should be shown the door.

  4. FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS ALOUD
    LET HIM HAVE HIS SAY
    AFTERALL PF MUPPETS ARE COMING WITH ALL SORTS OF ISSUES NOW
    YET WHEN IN THEIR TIME THEY TOLD THE OPPOSITION TO ZIP IT

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  5. All those PF appointed officials can’t be trusted, they have to go. I’m happy with yesterday’s extensive list of removals and hope more will follow.

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  6. All of a sudden UPND aligned individuals are offering advice to HH which they failed to do when the Govt they did not support was in power. Indeed the LUNGU scars are deep given the fact that even after he is gone he is still the subject of discussion even for the blunders of the new administration. The use of the term Landslide (56%) victory vs seems to used more emphatically by the followers of UPND. The record held by late FTJ Chiluba (76%) vs that of the incumbent KK (23%) would be more like it. The consistent tribal voting patterns of the three provinces cannot be termed as emphatic. Call them for what they are don’t sugar coat them.

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  7. flag Corruption scandals: 48 Houses Social Security Cash Luxury Presidential Jet Ambulances Fire Trucks Mukula Trees Ndola-Lusaka Rd Malawi Maizegate Fuelgate Swaziland landgate Zesco Loans Honeybee

    Very well articulated Dr Sishuwa… I couldn’t agree more with your comments. But it is a balancing act and there is no one size fits all approach. It should be about competency and integrity. But at the end of the day it should be about strengthening these institutions so that they are not political tools and weeding out corruption and empowering them to work for the people. Everyone needs to realise that they work for the people, they are servants of the people and and whatever they do, they have to do it in the best interest of Zambians.
    if we can just bring the cultural change to ensure that these public servants work extremely hard for the people, we can go a long way as a country. HH and his UPND govt need to invest heavily in Cultural Change in govt to bring about a different…

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  8. flag Corruption scandals: 48 Houses Social Security Cash Luxury Presidential Jet Ambulances Fire Trucks Mukula Trees Ndola-Lusaka Rd Malawi Maizegate Fuelgate Swaziland landgate Zesco Loans Honeybee

    @Choolwe Haantuba (not fun trying to pretend you are Tonga), Lungu’s govt were allergic to advice… they never listened to anyone apart from their own sycophants. So what are you talking about? Anyone who offered them advice or constructive criticism was viewed as an enemy. Dr Sishuwa himself wrote hundreds of articles full of advice but they wanted him arrested, after they caused him to be fired from UNZA. I see you haven’t changed. Lungu will forever be remembered for the way he messed up the country so no we can’t easily forget him. The damage he caused will take perhaps a generation to repair… you need to appreciate that and never bury your head in the sand as always.

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  9. Please Mr Academic, with your vow of silence sign that you are so arrogantly displaying. We know what you are and who you serve. God is not mocked. There is a judgment day coming. Even Satan will be judged and all that follow and serve him. The question for you is l, what will you do at the end? For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his Soul? Or what will a man give in exchange of his Soul? Repent! Jesus is coming soon.

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  10. let us depolitise the civil service. Yes the president can appoint for certain position and the diplomatic corp. But let Cabinet Office appoint permanent secretaries who will for the governing party policies. Shushuwa, Southern, Western and North Western provinces always voted against Lungu and PF. Even before the results were announced everyone knew the vote from that side. The only surprise, and something that matters was the Eastern and Northern vote for HH. This time around you seem to make sense except your sugar coating his Majesty HH

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  11. Presidents are free to dis-appoint appointees. In this way, presidents drive the process of policy shifts. It is contradictory to accuse ECL and team of misrule and the then ask HH to keep ECL team in offices. A new broom is already here. It is incumbent upon the people of Zambia to support new political initiatives on case by case basis. Support good policies. Criticize poor policies. Posterity will judge harshly any hatred and malice perpetrated against elected leaders.

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  12. The problem with Sishuwa and many others like him is that he thinks that only those in government or holding positions thereof are capable of stealing. Crime has no political identity. There are many who are holding senior positions in the UPND Administration that have committed similar crimes as those that are now out. If you take that approach then we’ll have selective justice whereby those that are with Bally will be perceived as clean. This is why we want those that have been dismissed to be given an opportunity to exculpate themselves. Emotions won’t solve these problems, they’ll just create others

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  13. Yes HH should fire all of Lungus appointees, simply because Lungu was a very bad President. How on earth would you expect good to come out of evil, I am non partisan but given space I can justify why the guy was the worst President Zambia has ever had, and I hope Zambia will never ever have such characters for President again. I don’t hate the man but truth be told, he was very un presidential in what ever he did, I am objective. Nobody is perfect but the guy was just bad for a head of state

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  14. And PF never seems to learn , they go and get uncivilized, uncouth, arrogant and quarrelsome Nakachinda to be their face , just how mwebanthu. They could have gotten sober, educated and civilized people like Brian Mushimba, Sylvia Chalikosa or Sydney Mushanga, these are decent and respected PF members. The rest must be ejected immediately,

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  15. I will say the president has no business appointing civil servants therefore replacing illegally appointed ex cadres with his own is perpetuating irregularities. Perhaps HH should just remove them and allow relevant professional bodies such as the civil service commission to independently appoint replacements. Its below the president’s duties to be appointing Permanent secretaries.

  16. Quote ‘ The worst-affected were Zambians from Southern, Western and Northwestern provinces – a factor that might explain why voters from these areas emphatically rejected Lungu and the Patriotic Front (PF). End of quote! Why is is that the aggressors are the ones that always want to play victim? If pf was harrasing people, it was harrassing those perceived to be from the opposition, Tongas, Bembas, Nyanga etc etc and not based on tribe. You are aware yourself our brothers have always not trusted any other tribe and the recent voting pattern was just a repeat of history. Whilst other tribes booted Pf based on principa (a feat that may not hapen in 2026 ), they voted based on tribe and tribal cousinship. For me you are now bringing back tribal remarks and I was not expecting this from…

  17. Yes he should….kolwe ni kolwe if not they will finish him from withing we love hh that’s why we don’t want him close to foolish pipo who don’t have love in there hearts

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