By Chris Zumani Zimba
From what I have read so far on the costs and rationale behind the proposed re-introduction of Deputy Ministers from many Zambians, it is clear that many noble men and women in our country are debating outside the factual reasoning and spirit of debate in and from the National Dialogue Forum (NDF). From most views and feedback, many of our good people are using either political emotions and tempers, rumors and gossips or lies and falsehoods to discuss the deputy minister issue than presenting empirical facts and scientific truth in terms of why the house resolved to drive in reverse than forward on this crucial topic.
- Re-Introduction of Deputy Ministers, Myths, Lies, Facts and Truth for Noble Zambians
In the name of democracy and free debate, here are the ‘expensive facts’ that won the hearts and endorsements of many delegates in the NDF committees and consequently plenary during debates on the ‘re-introduction of deputy ministers’ for you to see and appreciate the full context:
- Many big institutions such as schools, colleges, universities, states, banks or international organizations are headed by someone who is assisted by a vice or deputy. We all know about deputy school heads, vice presidents, second secretaries, vice chairpersons, etc to the effect that even the NDF itself had two vice chairpersons, male and female to support the chairperson;
- Most African countries within SADC, ECOWAS, EAC or AU have deputy ministers, Zimbabwe, DR Congo and Somalia inclusive with all their economic, political and financial doldrums and ills for decades now. Most developed countries and superpowers such as US, UK, China, Russia, Canada or Japan have deputy ministers or second secretaries. It is a regional and global governance practice;
- Zambian Cabinet Ministers are ‘overworked’ and ‘exploited’ as they have no deputy to help on bulky policy matters and find themselves running from one event to another, one district and province to anther and one regional trip to another one while Permanent Secretaries do not help much as they are restricted to administrative and technical work of the ministries;
- The re-introduction of Deputy Ministers is meant to establish a legal provision in the constitution so that the sitting president has latitude to appoint in case need arise especially for large and busy ministries such as finance, health or home affairs. This context is important to be understood and stressed everywhere;
- As there is no provision to appoint deputy ministers in the 2016 Constitution and currently, the president is left with only one option of merely adding and increasing more and more permanent secretaries when need arise who are more expensive to pay and maintain. For example, Ministry of Finance alone has four (4) permanent secretaries as we speak;
- From the discussions in the house, it was agreed that there should be only one deputy minister per ministry and only to be appointed if and when need arise in big ministries and not all. Thus, the idea that 30 deputy ministers shall automatically be appointed once effected into law is not only dangerous falsehood and show of churched ignorance, it is also a wrong political myth and toxic gossip from those who chose to remain behind and watch the NDF train leaving the station;
- Deputy Ministers are cheaper to pay and maintain than appointing new permanent secretaries as the situation stands. Since they are MPs who are on fulltime salary under National Assembly, their appointment to the executive means only transferring their payroll from parliament to Cabinet with an addition of less than K2, 000.00, too insignificant to even write home;
- This means employing an MP into the executive who is already paid from the Zambian tax money by the national assembly in order to maximize their professional utilization at policy level and full value for public money instead of hiring new top civil servants;
- To say that the re-introduction of deputy minsters will weaken separation of powers or check and balances is also another show of good Friday ignorance. In this modern Zambian parliament, MPs whether Ministers, Deputy Ministers or Backbenchers merely debate and mostly vote on party lines. So are the opposition MPs from their respective parties;
- The abolishment of deputy ministers in 2016 was impulsive and based on mob outcry in the name of reducing public expenditure. But after abolishing 30 deputy minister positions, the same Zambian mob forced law makers to introduce the direct election of fulltime city mayors and council chairpersons in 115 districts thereby doubling public expenditure to the sky on ballot papers, allowances, salaries and by elections; and
- In that vein, the NDF resolved and recommended to stop direct election of city mayors and council chairpersons but to revert to the old system where they are voted from amongst and by their peers in the council chambers since their function remain the same as in the past. If approved into law, this means that there shall be no wastage of public money on city and town fathers or no their by elections.
It is worrisome to see many pessimists who have rationally chosen to ignore the positives of NDF or make some efforts to read further and appreciate the truth and facts about the process except to run with lies, myths, falsehoods and criticism on what they deem negative. But even this approach is both welcome and relevant in a democracy because ‘iron sharpen iron’, including fake iron. However, it is imperative for us to remind ourselves that from such a magna process, it is practically impossible for any reasonable person to agree or disagree 100% with everything in terms of the outcome except that everything from NDF, just like cabinet or parliament runs on the wheels of collective responsibility.
My next article on the NDF, I will focus on the controversial “coalition government”. To me, the NDF remains Zambia’s most comprehensive, progressive and inclusive Constitutional and Parliamentary Acts refinement national platform of the year 2019. I was there throughout the process on my own citizen cost, will and spirit; I now feel more Zambian for being part of this historical national assignment. Ladies and gentlemen, it is imperative to stress that there are many excellent and beautiful resolutions from the National Dialogue Forum (NDF) which we all need to read, discuss and debate before cabinet and parliament engage gear four.
Chris Zumani Zimba is a prolific Political Scientist, Policy Analyst, Author, Blogger, PhD Scholar, Researcher, Consultant, Public Health and Tobacco Control Advocate. Besides being the CEO at Chrizzima Democracy University (CDU) in Zambia, he analyses African politics weekly on Voice of the Cape Town, South Africa every Wednesday at 16:45hours CAT. So far, he has authored more than 10 political and academic books as well as published over 100 well researched articles on African politics and public health. Sometimes, he lectures Political Science-Part Time with University of Zambia (UNZA) and University of Lusaka (UNILUS) outside his usual commitments. Chriszumanizimba.firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com; +260 973 153 815 for calls or WhatsApp