Reuben Lifuka, a prominent advocate for good governance, transparency, accountability, and environmental sustainability, has raised concerns about the state of democracy in Zambia. In an interview with The Mast, Lifuka noted that Zambia’s democracy is still a work in progress, and there are remnants of a one-party state.
Lifuka cited weak separation of power among the three arms of government, which he believes gives the executive an upper hand. “We still see very weak separation of powers between the three arms of government because of the fact that the Executive still retains the power to provide financial support or to in a way allocate budgets to the Legislature as well as the Judiciary. There is no financial autonomy of the Judiciary or the Legislature. As long as that arrangement continues, the Executive will always have an upper hand on the other arms of government,” he said.
Lifuka also raised concerns about the president’s powers of appointment, stating that they give the presidency too much power. “When we look at the appointments made by the President and where the President by the Constitution is mandated to make appointments, there is still a lot of powers that reside in the presidency. And these are some of the things that we need to address,” he said.
Furthermore, Lifuka noted that there are still remnants of previous regimes where the ruling party could use law enforcement agencies to deal with perceived opponents of the ruling party. “But also we talk about protecting the rule of law which is important, but we still see remnants of what happened in previous regimes where the ruling party could weaponise the Zambia Police or any other law enforcement agency in order to deal with perceived opponents of the ruling party,” he said.
To address these issues, Lifuka called for governance reforms, including strengthening the country’s legal regime and enhancing access to justice. “We need to have in place appropriate laws like the access to information, which should enhance the freedom of expression, and freedom of association of every Zambian. We need to conclude the constitutional reform process so that we expand the Bill of Rights to go beyond civil and political rights, to include third-generation rights which are economic and social rights. We need to strengthen the legal regime, but most importantly, we need to undertake governance reforms,” he said.
Lifuka also highlighted the need to reform the local government system to make it more responsive to the needs of communities. “The local government system as we know it at the moment does not yet respond to the needs and specific needs of communities. We have a number of local governments that are essentially or technically bankrupt. They do not have sufficient resources to undertake their mandate. So all these then call for reform. How do we reform governance so that we provide support to the people, the most marginalized people in communities?” he said.